I've been steadily involved in the arena debate with a number of friends, non-friends, and neighbors over the last several weeks and an interesting comparison has come up within the last several days. I want to throw it out there for comparison.
When discussing the need for the public to subsidize amenities which are only used by a portion of the population comes up I pointed out to a neighbor that my children utilize public parks almost daily. All of these parks are paid for by taxpayers and I use them free of charge despite the fact that Icould afford some type of "user fee" for the service. My neighbor has no use for the parks yet pays a similar amount. This same line of thought applies to publicly subsidized museums, landmarks, etc. Yet in each of those cases the recipients seem somewhat worthy because they targeted taxpayers are children or families which essentially deserve the support.
The closest analogy I could come to sports funding with my neighbor involved Municiple Golf Courses. This particular neighbor golfs weekly at Jackson Municiple Golf Course for a price of approximately $23 for 9 holes. That game is publicly subsidized as private courses cost anywhere from 3 to 6 times as much.
Now I don't know how much golfing can be attributed to helping the poor, but as an example Jackson Municiple Golf course just recieved city funding of $360,000 for renovations, following a 2004 funding of $890,000. This may not stack up against the $10 million per year the Sonics are asking for in funding but it is simply one part of the city's complicated financial picture.
Golf shows us a pretty good example that city's have to pay for amenities that make them "first class". A city which does not have golf courses, museums, and yes professional sports is an undesirable city to live in. While you consistently here ranting against the public funding of these sports arena's you never hear people demanding to cut funding for golf course and parks. These things are simply acknowledged as part of the social fabric of our community and accepted. Professional sports, due to their private ownership and the huge dollars involved are viewed differently but make no mistake about it, losing pro hoops is as big a blow to this city as losing parks, the aquarium, or even golf courses.
I haven't golfed in two years but I support this course. Now I want these guys to support my team!