But What About The Seahawks? -- Sources Say, `We're Out Of Here'
Seattle Times Staff
Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring has called a meeting with officials of King County today amid strong indications the team intends to break its Kingdome lease and move to Anaheim.
One source with the National Football League team, who like others asked not to be publicly identified, last night said flatly: "We're gone. We're out of here. We're moving to Anaheim."
"If I said everything's OK, I'd be lying," said another Seahawk staff member. "I know there were meetings (Wednesday) that were the most serious ever held. They set a heavy tone. People were upset. There were people walking around with tears in their eyes."
One staffer said she was told to bring boxes to work today, presumably to pack her belongings. Another sobbed when reached on the phone, saying she could not say anything.
Seahawk owner Ken Behring, reached late last night at a hotel in Kirkland, would neither confirm nor deny reports the team was leaving town.
"There have been so many rumors, I'm not even going to comment," he said. "I'm continually working with the county. We're still trying to come up with a solution.
"So much has been written already, you can write whatever you want."
Behring has maintained that the Kingdome, which turns 20 in March, is not a first-class facility, as required in the lease that runs for 10 more years.
There is speculation that that Behring will use a study he commissioned on the effects of serious seismic activity on the Kingdome as further evidence of the Kingdome's inadequacy.
The county already heard from a team of engineers commissioned to study the Kingdome, which said the facility's inner structure might not withstand a major earthquake of the size that occurs once every 500 years.
Behring's study was expected to show the problem was more serious than reported and that repairs might reach a prohibitive level, up to a reported $90 million.
Past estimates put the figure at between $10 million and $30 million. Behring once said it may be less expensive to build another facility.
In Los Angeles, several groups are attempting to woo an NFL franchise to the area, but none would confirm last night that a deal had been struck.
"Nothing's been consummated yet," Jim Ruth, the Anaheim City Manager, told the Los Angeles Times. "We're going to have to wait another day or two. A lot of problems have to be worked out. Until Mr. Behring says anything, it's very much in the air."
The City of Anaheim recently unveiled plans for a billion-dollar sports complex, but did not indicate where financing would come from. Disney, which owns 25 percent of the California Angels, also announced plans to reduce the capacity of a baseball-only stadium from 65,000 to 45,000.
"We've got big problems with the Angels and the stadium right now," Ruth said. "I don't know if we can do both. We'd love to have Mr. Behring. He's a good owner."
King County officials denied reports the Seahawks finally were making good on their threat to move the team.
County Executive Gary Locke and County Council budget chairman Pete von Reichbauer met late yesterday with business leaders, whom they would not identify, to discuss the Seahawk situation but denied the team was moving.
It is absolutely not true, Locke said.
He said rumors of the move seem to come up two or three times a week.
Locke said yesterday's meeting came about because Behring had called to ask for another session with the county today. The meeting would be a continuation of discussions the two sides have had.
Von Reichbauer, who has worked to position himself as a voice for the Seahawks on the council, described the rumors of a move as taking on the status ofurban myths.
Von Reichbauer said there have been continuing conversations between the county, the Seahawks and the local business community, but there has been no agreement for the team to move.
Earlier yesterday, von Reichbauer's budget committee met to discuss plans for Kingdome renovations that may be proposed to upgrade the facility to meet the Seahawks' request for changes.
A county study on Kingdome renovations is expected in about a month.
Susan Clawson, finance director of the Kingdome, said the county made only about $1.1 million last year in revenues from Seahawk games, a reduction of about $400,000 from 1994. Clawson attributed the reduction to a decline in attendance. Last year, the Seahawks averaged only about 44,000 per home game, more than 20,000 fewer than the Kingdome holds.
In some cases, as many as 10,000 season-ticket holders did not show up for games.
By contrast, according to the Kingdome staff, the county actually lost money on games played by the Seattle Mariners. Ann Kawasaki, acting Kingdome manager, said the county loses money when the Mariners draw fewer than 25,000 as well as when there are big crowds, because of the need to increase staffing to open the third deck at the Dome. Kawasaki said about 25,000 is the optimum level for the county.
She noted that the county also lost money during the playoffs because of limits on county revenues written into the Mariners 1985 lease.
Seattle Mayor Norm Rice last night said he was unaware of any imminent plan to move the Seahawks.
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