Public funding for Husky Stadium appears dead
The University of Washington's request for public money to help renovate and upgrade Husky Stadium appears dead for this year. A week after saying...
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — The University of Washington's request for public money to help renovate and upgrade Husky Stadium appears dead for this year.
A week after saying he was willing to consider the proposal, House Speaker Frank Chopp said today it appears to have little support in the Legislature and most likely will not be approved this session.
"All I said was that I'd consider it," said Chopp, D-Seattle. "Nobody is asking for it, so that pretty much sums it up, doesn't it."
But former Gov. Dan Evans, who heads the UW committee that crafted the stadium proposal, said he isn't ready to give up.
"I will talk to him and will encourage him to give it a hearing," Evans said. "It's not an easy sell, but it's not impossible. And it's critically important as far as we're concerned."
Meanwhile, the head of the Senate budget committee said she plans to keep pushing the UW's proposal and will likely hold a hearing on it early next month.
Evans said he believes the proposal could get traction in Olympia "if it gets a chance."
The UW Board of Regents was briefed last week on a plan to ask the Legislature for authority to raise about $150 million for the stadium project by tapping into an assortment of restaurant, hotel and rental-car taxes. Those taxes, collected only in King County, are now being used to retire debt on Seattle's professional-sports stadiums.
The university would finance the rest of the $300 million project with donations and revenue from premium seating.
Evans met personally with Chopp recently to brief him on the proposal. The university is within Chopp's legislative district.
Chopp, who for the past three years was adamantly opposed to a similar funding proposal for a new Seattle Sonics arena, initially sounded optimistic about the UW proposal.
He said last week that fixing up Husky Stadium was "by light years" a more legitimate use of public money than building a new arena for the Sonics.
But Chopp said today that, since his meeting with Evans, not a single lawmaker has shown much interest in the project or asked him to support it.
"So that sends a pretty strong message," Chopp said.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said she has heard concerns from some members of her caucus about whether the project should take priority over other things, such as academics. But Brown said she wasn't sure if the proposal was dead.
"It's a little hard to call," Brown said. "But it doesn't seem to be moving rapidly."
The proposal has at least one ardent fan in Olympia. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Margarita Prentice plans to introduce the UW proposal as legislation today.
Evans said Thursday that Chopp didn't make any promises about whether the proposal would advance. But Evans does think it's a little soon for him to be pulling the plug.
"I've seen lots of legislation like this that is dead and gets resurrected," Evans said. "It happens all the time down there."
Seattle Times reporters Andrew Garber and Yu Nakayama contributed to this story. Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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