Industrial users escalate debate over proposed Sodo arena
A proposed arena in Sodo is a land grab that threatens thousands of jobs, representatives of the city's marine industries told the Seattle City Council members Thursday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A proposed arena in Sodo is a land grab that threatens thousands of jobs, representatives of the city's marine industries told Seattle City Council members Thursday.
The debate about whether to allow a sports arena just south of Safeco Field has highlighted a culture clash between the industries that depend on the city's industrial land and deep-water port and others who think those things can exist alongside a new arena that would employ hundreds and bring the NBA back to Seattle.
Thursday, the industrial users fought to make their case that the debate is not about financing and traffic counts, but a broader impact on one of the city's major industries.
"We need to look at this with a broad view, with a real broad view," said Herald Ugles of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. "The Port's an economic engine that drives our economy."
San Francisco investor Chris Hansen wants to build the $490 million arena in Sodo, with up to $200 million in public bonds he says would be paid back by arena revenue, costing the public virtually nothing. Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine support the idea and sent it to both councils for vetting and possible approval.
Hansen will make his case to the City Council on June 20, but Thursday, representatives of the Port, the Manufacturing Industrial Council and two maritime unions told the council why they think an arena — even a relatively small one with mostly weekend and evening events — threatens thousands of jobs.
"We're not saying that this is the end of marine cargo. Our concern is to what extent are you undermining this very important industry," said Dave Gering, executive director of the Manufacturing Industrial Council. "The arena developer has been amazingly candid. ... This is not just about an arena. This is about changing Sodo. He's been very open about that."
Hansen has alluded in media interviews to retail and restaurants next to the arena and told The Seattle Times editorial board that development of industrial areas is a natural progression in a city.
"To the extent that we're accelerating that process a little bit," he said, "hopefully that's a good thing."
City Council members asked the Port for information — how often does Port business happen on evenings and weekends? How much Port traffic uses the streets east of First Avenue South? — and challenged assumptions in a recent study done by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and a consultant. The study, funded by Hansen, concluded the new arena would cause no major new traffic problems.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw scolded SDOT at one point for being too much of a booster.
She said she was tired of hearing about how the arena deal is better than deals offered to other cities.
"I'd really like us to shift and focus on what's the best deal for us," she said. "I just feel like we're trying to jam something that's really square into a round hole."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.