Poll: A new waterfront or a Sodo arena?
Seattle is dreaming of a grand plan for the waterfront once the viaduct is replaced with a tunnel. The news side's Lynn Thompson has a story in Friday's newspaper that includes a heated pool on a barge, a roller rink and a mist machine, at an estimated total price of $420 million.
On Monday, the Seattle City Council will get a briefing about the waterfront plan from the Central Waterfront Committee.
According to Thompson's story, the new waterfront could be paid for by a local improvement district of downtown property owners. The council could also consider going to the voters for a nine-year $55 to $65 million levy.
Council members should be walking on eggs if they are considering asking voters to pay for the waterfront makeover while they are also considering financing the debt for the proposed arena in Sodo. On the Nov. 6 ballot, the city is asking for a $290 million levy to replace the aging seawall that is almost a century old. Oh, and on Aug. 7, the city is also asking for voters to pay a $123 million seven-year levy for libraries.
In the arena financing proposal, taxes on revenue from the arena would fund the city's debt payments, and if taxes fall short the owners would make up the difference. Still, the optics are troubling. Both the arena and waterfront proposals are entertainment, quality-of-life investments that would change our landscape. The waterfront would be accessible by the public. The arena would be accessible by ticket payers.
The waterfront is an underutilized public space in the city. The addition of the Great Wheel has already dramatically improved the area. Arena ownership would be shared between the public and private investors. The city plans to buy the land under the proposed arena. The arena building would be privately owned for 30 years, after which the city would own the arena. A 30-year-old one. (I challenge you to name a single NBA team playing in a 30-year-old arena.)
Do you want to pay for a waterfront and publicly finance a private sports arena at the same time? Let us know in the poll below.
Update 12:09 a.m.:
Thanks for pointing out that the New York Knicks play in Madison Square Garden, which is 44 years old. That arena is currently undergoing a $775 million to $850 million renovation, according to this New York Times story. Our city already owns an old arena that needs an expensive renovation: KeyArena.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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