clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The public benefits of Seattle Arena, part 1

New, comments

Lately on this site, we've been doing a lot of debunking of arena opponents' arguments. It's been a lot of arguing against other people's points. For a moment, let's take a break from the negativity and look at some of the major positives of our own project (well, not our own, but you know what I mean). Let's look at all of the public benefits that will come from building Seattle Arena.

Projects of this magnitude, including a potential street vacation, must provide a public benefit. The arena project contains several, many of which were negotiated before the designing of the arena even started. The Memorandum of Understanding between Chris Hansen's ArenaCo group and the city of Seattle was renegotiated on October 8, 2012 to provide extra incentives, as well as protection, for the public at large. Some of those protections include capping the combined City and County public portion at $200 million, covering all cost overruns, and yearly reviews of the group's finances. None of those classify as "public benefit," though. Here's what does;

The biggest concession that Hansen's group made in the MOU was for the creation of "The SODO Transportation Infrastructure Fund." This is to be a separate account managed by the City and County. A total of $40 million is to be deposited into this fund by ArenaCo, which will then be used for transportation improvements in South Seattle, in the area surrounding the Stadium District. Why would the Port of Seattle be against improving transportation in SODO? Well, maybe this passage would explain it:

The SODO Transportation Infrastructure Fund will give first priority to projects protecting the operations of the Port of Seattle, such as those serving Terminal 46, and improving freight mobility, including projects that improve pedestrian safety, enhance transit service and connectivity, and overall traffic management in the SODO area.

Wait, no... That seems good for them. So, then... Never mind, I'm getting off track.

Another public benefit listed in the MOU is $7 million in upgrades to Key Arena. Seeing as how a team would most likely need to use the outdated venue as a temporary home, it makes sense for ArenaCo to help make it a little more up-to-date. At least they could get those 1990 Zenith TVs out of the concourses and get some true HD up in there.

ArenaCo will cause certain improvements to be made to Key Arena, and those improvements which are of a permanent nature, which may include modernization of the telephone, data and broadcast "backbones" of the arena, as well as refurbishment and minor renovation to the event-level locker rooms and other spaces, will remain behind after the Arena is completed and opens and will become the property of the City.

To date, this is the only verified contribution to Key Arena that has been pledged.

The MOU also calls for ArenaCo to enter into a "Community Benefit Agreement" ("CBA") with appropriate community organizations that will be affected by the arena, e.g. Pioneer Square and the International District.

ArenaCo shall communicate with a variety of community organizations, community members and the City and County to identify the appropriate issues to be addressed by the CBA, which may include economic development, employment opportunities with living wages, job training and apprenticeships, transportation and parking, community amenities, and public safety, as they relate to the Arena and its operations. The CBA shall also provide the structure for meaningful ongoing community dialog and partnership with ArenaCo once the Arena is operational, including annual reporting on fulfillment of mitigating measures.

But basketball games are only for the super-rich who can afford luxury boxes and courtside seats, right? Don't worry, the MOU's got you covered there too.

...the NBA franchise will go beyond the league standard for providing affordable tickets (current standard is an average of 500 tickets per game at $10 or less), by offering an average of 500 tickets per game at $10 or less plus an additional average of 1,000 tickets per game at $20 or less...

There is also a provision within the MOU for the NBA team to contribute significantly to its community.

As a regional asset, the NBA franchise will work to establish partnerships with organizations throughout King County that serve youth and underserved communities, particularly in areas where Public Health-Seattle & King County have identified health and education disparities. The NBA franchise will establish partnerships with the goal of contributing to the future success and health of youth with initiatives such as scholarship funds, afterschool programs, youth mentorship and improved basketball facilities in the region to increase opportunities to play and learn the game of basketball.

So that must be all of the public benefits, right? That's quite a few. WRONG! There's more to come, so check back tomorrow for part 2.