Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #15: The Seahawks Legislation

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • The Seahawks Legislation
  •  Status On Seahawks Legislation
  • Financing The New Seahawks Stadium

The Seahawks Legislation

Call the legislature hot line 1-800-562-6000. It’s critical to call your legislator today. Sue Tupper, former campaign manager for Mike Lowry’s smartly run Governor’s Campaign, now one of Paul Allen’s 18 lobbyists, is organizing a mailing to 12,000 Seahawk fans to lobby the state legislature. Most legislators do not want to vote for new taxes for the football stadium. But they need to hear from you, otherwise the Seahawks lobbying effort will hit pay-dirt.

Status On Seahawks Legislation

The House Trade and Economic Development (TED) Committee passed the truncated Seahawks House Bill 2192 (copy of text provided below) by one vote in order to keep it alive in the session. Before Governor Locke’s office started lobbying, 7 out of the 9 committee members were preparing to vote no. One outspoken critic of the Seahawks changed her mind because the Governor was funding some needed social service projects in budget. By promising each wavering legislator some select budget items, Locke may be able to get a Seahawks bill out of the Senate or the House committees. But many who are voting to pass the bill out of committee say they will vote against it on the floor.

The Senate’s Ways and Means Committee will have to vote on the Seahawks Senate Bill 5999 this Monday (3/10). Committee Chair Jim West, (R-Spokane) who is not supportive of the bill, said that unless 12 of the 21 members of the committee intend to vote for it, he won’t bring it up for a vote. It must be voted out of the committee by Monday or it’s dead in the Senate.

The Ranking Democrats on the committee, Sen. Harriet Spanel (D-40, Bellingham) and Sen. Karen Fraser (D-22, Olympia), have not declared how they will vote. Also two Seattle Senators sit on the committee: Sen. Pat Thibaudeau (D-43, Capitol Hill, Montlake, Wallingford) and Sen. Jeanne Kohl (D-36, Q. A., Ballard, Greenwood). Thibaudeau has said she “Can’t imagine spending public dollars on the stadium” but has not said how she’ll vote on the bill this Monday. Kohl was a member of the Seahawks/Kingdome Renovation Task Force that recommended tearing down the Kingdome. She is now a co- sponsor of the Seahawks Stadium Bill. She has said “I’m a Seattle liberal who supports education above everything else but I think if the Seahawks leave that they will have a huge economic impact…”. That assumption is not shared by economists who have studied the impact of professional sport teams on a region’s economy.

More to the point, is the subsidy that the state is providing professional sports and not education. There will be no sales tax on the construction costs for the Seahawks new stadium. This amounts to a $25 million exemption. Meanwhile school districts must pay that tax on constructing new school buildings. If our legislators are going to be subsidizing construction, which should it be schools or stadiums?

Call or e-mail key legislators on the Senate Ways and Means Committee:

Telephone: (360) 786-7715, Fax: (360) 786-7615

Sen. Harriet Spaniel
Sen. Karen Fraser
Sen. Pat Thibaudeau
Sen. Jeanne Kohl
Sen. Betti Sheldon

Financing The New Seahawks Stadium

Dr. James Quirk, (co-author of “Pay Dirt, the Business of Professional Team Sports” published by Princeton University) has reviewed the Seahawks proposal and has concluded that the public will not benefit from building a new football stadium.

Using a fair market rent comparison, Dr. Quirk concludes the public subsidy to the Seahawks is about $25 million a year.

Using a more conservative cash flow analysis and assuming no sports memorabilia tax, the public subsidy is about $17.6 million a year over 23 years ($22.5 million annual bond payments + $1.1 million pro-rated sales tax exemption on construction minus team’s annual $6 million contribution).

The public subsidy works out to either $24 or $35 per seat (filled or not) at every Seahawk game during the year (72,000 seats x 10 games).

At least half of this taxpayer subsidy comes from outside King County since Seahawks claim that over half of their attendance is from outside it.

This also means that entertainment dollars normally spent in other parts of the state are simply being reshuffled. The revenue they produce is only “new money” to King County not to Pierce, Jefferson or any other county in the state.

If the sales tax on sports memorabilia is not replaced by a comparable revenue stream there will not be enough money to support the bond payments, let alone tacking on any money for school technology programs or sports facilities.

The Seahawks are not a money-losing team, they were ranked 10th in the league (of 30 teams) in earning power by “Financial World”. Ironically, with their new stadium the Mariners’s expect their league income ranking will eventually be similar to where the Seahawks are now playing in the Kingdome.

The general fund could be tapped if revenue projections are off. According to Roger Wilson, state lottery deputy director, in Maryland where the state lottery helped pay for Camden Yards, sales of stadium-lottery game tickets declined once the stadium was built. Substitute House Bill 2195 that was passed out of the (TED) Committee:

Be It Enacted By The Legislature Of The State Of Washington:

Sec. 1. The legislature finds that regional and state economies are enhanced by having facilities to accommodate both sporting events and exhibits.

The legislature further finds that the direct and indirect economic benefits of professional sports and exhibits generate revenue and jobs to the economy.

The legislature further finds that a fair, balanced funding partnership between the private sector, the public sector, and the facility users is vital.

The legislature further finds that any construction of the facility and operation of concessions within the facility shall include thirty- three percent representation of minority-owned businesses.

The legislature further finds that the developer and master tenant of the facility shall take steps necessary to mitigate the impact of the facility on the surrounding areas.

Keep in touch…


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