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Sunday, February 22, 2009

A New Arena Plan: Creating a Seattle Center Stimulus Package

Let's create a stimulus package that creates jobs, upgrades the Center, and creates revenue streams for local businesses and the city while providing jobs.

Getting the legislature interested in the Colieum will require logical thinking, practical solutions, and a smart plan with wide-range benefits. In this economic landscape, everyone, especially the government, is under pressure to be prudent and accountable.

The way get Key funding, and Bennett's $30 million, is to propose an entire upgrade to the Seattle Center, with the Key being a part of that expansion/upgrade plan. A 'stimulus package' for the Seattle Center and lower Queen Anne area, that would upgrade the entire Center with the Coliseum being a part of that plan, while creating jobs in the process. Selling the State o a plan with an agenda of getting a team back is a lost cause and an awful coming off of what just happened and the financial situation we are in. There simply has to be a big-picture benefit to a plan. Let’s explore my idea.

Using the existing tax plan that was offered up (and rejected) as our basic template, let us use that tax formula to upgrade the entire Seattle Center. Earmark the initial flow of funds towards a Coliseum upgrade, but do not restrict it to that. Maybe a 75/25 split of the tax (75% going towards the Coliseum upgrade) until the $75 million threshold is met (ensuring Bennett being on the hook for the $30 million) and then have it revert to a 90/10 split where the 90% is used to upgrade and expand the Seattle Center as needed. The new 10% would be used in a way that is TBD, or perhaps even used as a safety net in anticipation of cost overruns.

After the $75 million is acquired, allow a private-sector investor to take on the rest of the financial risk of the upgrade - acquiring an ownership stake in the Coliseum in the process. Private ownership will be burdened with the task of operating it efficiently - a much better risk than hanging it on the government who have no personal financial risk at stake. Those who have the most to lose financially will work the hardest at creating a profitable and efficient business - something the government has never been accused of doing.

The Coliseum should not be at the center of the debate – it should be a by-product of a larger stimulus package. That would make more sense because the benefits will be on a larger scale, rather than trying to convince an embittered City to chase down another NBA team after the Bennett/Stern debacle. We should not be counting on an NBA team coming here, because that is a real possibility. However, with my plan in place we have still created a winning situation; Seattle gets a sorely-needed upgrade to the Seattle Center, gets Bennett’s $30 million, and could still get a hockey team.

With the announcement about the NBA needing a $175 million fund to keep 15 teams afloat, according to Sports Business Journal, let’s not put all our bets on the NBA returning. I forecast the potential folding of franchises, or their imminent move.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

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