Referendum 48 -- Pro / Con -- Ballot Title: Shall A Public Stadium Authority Be Authorized To Build And Operate A Football/Soccer Stadium And Exhibition Center Financed By Tax Revenues And Private Contributions?
LET'S remove the emotion from this issue and get down to the bare facts. When you cast your vote between now and June 17th, you have a very simple choice between yes and no. And frankly, it's not even a choice. To mix a metaphor, it's a slam dunk. So let's look at the two choices, one at a time.
First, if you cast a "no" vote, here's what you'll be stuck with:
-- Continuing property and sales taxes to bail out an empty Kingdome.
-- A continued $70 million hangover coming right out of your pocket left from the Kingdome roof falling in. That adds up to over $5 million a year in King County sales and property taxes that could be used for essential services. And it doesn't even count the more than $40 million needed for repairs and maintenance that will give us only a substandard stadium. An independent King County task force even concluded it would cost tens of millions more for a professional-quality facility.
-- We're also left with a nearly vacant Kingdome with a "for rent" sign on the front when both the Mariners and Seahawks cease to play there. And we're still burdened with the original Kingdome debt of over $100 million. And for what? An empty reminder of what we might have had.
-- Next, you lose the Seattle Seahawks and their economic benefits; 624 jobs and $38 million in wages would disappear entirely from Washington state. That doesn't include all of the people who come to games, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, buy cameras and film and souvenirs. Add that in and you're looking at $67 million in total business revenues lost every year.
Paul Allen, who was approached three times by community leaders and finally accepted our plea to buy the team, is now leaving the choice up to you. If this measure fails, it is clear there are no other local, committed buyers and the team will leave Seattle. Allen is a man of his word and his option to purchase the team expires on July 1.
And now for the "yes." This one is simple. You essentially get a football and soccer stadium along with an exhibition center, that doesn't increase a single tax dollar and is financed in large part personally by Paul Allen. We even have $10 million going from Paul Allen into this state's playfields (with even more down the road) so our children and grandchildren have decent grass fields to play soccer, baseball or just a little kickball. What else are we being given?
-- A chance to use the King County taxes currently going to bail out the Kingdome for education and other public services.
-- A local and committed owner of our National Football League team, the Seahawks.
-- A football and soccer stadium with a natural grass field, covered seats for 70 percent of the fans, and compared with the Kingdome, more than 20 times the seating for the disabled, wider concourses and twice the restrooms. We'll even see expanded parking along with traffic improvements and other services for surrounding neighborhoods.
-- The first chance and maybe the only chance ever for Major League Soccer to come to Seattle.
-- A place for the World Cup and the Olympics, collegiate and young people's championship games and maybe even the Superbowl.
-- A brand new Exhibition Center with over 50 percent more floor space than the Kingdome and state-of-the-art amenities for hometown and consumer trade events like the Home and Boat shows.
-- Paul Allen's personal guarantee of $100 million in private funds for construction.
-- A package designed by the governor and Legislature and citizens across the state that means only people who attend events, stay in a King County hotel or motel, or who buy special lottery tickets will pay.
-- Finally, the public portion is actually capped and Paul Allen has personally guaranteed he will pay for any cost overruns, future maintenance needs or operations costs.
Both of us have been governors of this great state, one a Democrat and one a Republican, and we've both been moved by the incredible support for this magnificent effort. It cuts across political, ethnic and cultural lines. It reaches into our city's neighborhoods and as far away as Elk, Washington. And we're here to say the choice is simple for all of us. Vote "yes" for your future, your kids and your pocketbook.
Former Republican governor Dan Evans is president of the University of Washington Board of Regents.
Former Democratic governor Booth Gardner is commissioner of the National Soccer Alliance, a newly formed women's professional league.
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