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Wednesday, June 18, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Keeping Seahawks Spurred `Yes' Votes -- They Believed Team Would Leave If Plan Failed, Poll Shows

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Copyright 1997, Seattle Times Co.

There was affection for the aging Kingdome, skepticism about the no-tax pledge and disgust over sky-high player salaries. But in the end, it was the Seahawks who may have saved themselves.

Washington voters did not want to lose Seahawk football.

That, more than anything else, was the reason voters apparently agreed to tear down the Kingdome and build a new football stadium, according to a Seattle Times Washington Poll.

"I saw this as the only way the Seahawks would stay," said Pat Hogan, 38, a mechanic from Kent. "If it weren't for Paul Allen, I probably wouldn't have voted for it. He's a local owner and he's put a lot of money into the team. If he owns the team, he'll field a competitive team and the crowds will be there."

Most voters surveyed said they believed Paul Allen when he said he would not buy the Seahawks if the stadium vote failed.

Jim Coss, a supporter from Olympia, said if the region loses the Seahawks, it will cost twice as much to get another football team.

"I think the people have got to wake up," said Coss, 40, a school custodian who used to have Seahawk season tickets. "If we lose the team we'll lose a lot of revenue. That's the game right now. All owners want to put new stadiums in. If cities don't they lose down the line."

The telephone poll of 512 voters was conducted June 7-16 by Elway Research of Seattle. It had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

"What it came down to is people didn't want to lose the team," said pollster Stuart Elway. "They held their noses and voted yes."

The stadium was a tough sell in Eastern Washington, where many voters felt they were being asked to endorse a facility that would benefit only Seattle.

"In Spokane, we have big problems with streets. You can't even go down one street without 10 to 12 potholes," said Julie Adams, a Spokane voter. "I can't understand why we have to send money to Seattle when we can't even fix our streets."

Eunice Peterson, another Spokane voter, echoed critics who said professional teams, not the public, should build their own stadiums.

"If wealthy team owners want a stadium, let them build their own," said Peterson, a former season-ticket holder who let her tickets lapse because of the high prices. "It's not a family thing anymore. Games are only for people who can afford it."

The specter of the Kingdome disappearing was hard for many voters - even supporters - to accept.

"If I had my druthers, I'd have left the Kingdome and not built the new Mariners park or Seahawks park," said Jeanine Closson, 41, a barista from Puyallup who is not a Seahawk fan but voted for the stadium.

Gay Helt, a teacher from Ballard who opposed the stadium, said the prospect of tearing down the Kingdome was hard to swallow. "Here, we have a building 20 years old and already we're ready to get rid of it," she said.

"In Europe, buildings are centuries old and we value them. Instead, we have this culture of a throwaway society. I don't want to spend money on building a brand-new stadium to support the very wealthy who want to be in special boxes you can't put in the Kingdome."

Support for the stadium was strongest among men, the wealthy and those under age 50.

Yet, even half of those who voted for the stadium believe teams should build their own facilities. And half of the supporters - and two-thirds of Seahawk fans - said that professional sports have gotten out of control and it is time to send a message.

Most of the stadium backers believed Paul Allen when he said taxes would not be raised to pay for the stadium, but three-quarters of opponents said they believed their taxes would go up if the stadium were built.

"My philosophy is, if it sounds too good to be true, it is," said Leo Anderson, a retired labor-relations official from Bellingham. "What happens three years from now if the team goes belly up? I thought we had a lease with the current owner. I love sports. I'm just totally disgruntled with professional sports."

But Jack Farrell, a stadium supporter from Edmonds, said that users, not the general public, would pay for the new Seahawk home. "You have to remember it's not going to cost me a damn nickel," he said. "It will be paid for by people who use it or Mr. Allen. They didn't rob any taxes from schools."

Another stadium backer, Clarence Harshman from Renton, said that during the course of the campaign he turned from an opponent to a supporter. He said people aren't giving Allen enough credit for stepping in when it looked like the team would be moving to California.

"Our elected officials wanted Paul Allen to go into partnership with him," he said. "Everyone faults him for being a billionaire. They should be thankful he's in their midst. He guaranteed to pay for overruns. How can you overlook the facts?"

The poll also found:

-- Only one-third of the voters said replacing the Kingdome was a reason to vote for the new stadium.

-- The pitch that a new stadium could produce a professional soccer team did not impress many voters. Fewer than half said it was a significant reason to vote yes.

-- All the money pumped into the campaign during the last week had little influence. During the nine days of polling by Elway Research there was little movement among voters.

-- Not surprisingly, the strongest support was among Seahawk fans. Still, more than one in four fans voted against the plan. And one-third of nonfans supported the stadium.

-- Families with children were big supporters. Sixty percent of those with children at home voted yes, while only 50 percent of those without children were supporters.

-- Even though the stadium was pushed by a billionaire, two-thirds of the state's richest voters believed that teams should build their own stadiums. ----------------------------------------------------------------- About the poll:

The Seattle Times Washington Poll of 512 voters has a margin of error of 4.5 percent, meaning that in theory, findings have a 95 percent chance of coming within 4.5 percentage points of results that would have been obtained if all voters in the state had been interviewed. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Impact

If the Seahawks were to leave town, what would the impact be?

No answer 3% . Negative 66% . No impact 20% . Positive 11% . ----------------------------------------------------------------- Seattle Times

What voters believed

The Seahawks will leave town if the measure fails.

Agree 62% . Don't know 18% . Disagree 20% .

Professional sports teams, not thw public, should build their own stadiums.

Agre 68% . Don't know 6% . Disagree 26% . Despite tthe claim by proponents, my taxes will be raised to help pay for the stadium.

Agree 49% . Don't know 6% . Disagree 45% .

Professional sprts are out of control and it's time to send a message.

Agree 71% . Don't know 5% . Disagree 24% .

We don't need a new stadium. The Kingdome stil lworks for the Seahawks.

Agree 51% . Don't know 6% . Disagree 43% .

If it fails, Paul Allen won't buy the Seahawks.

Agree 64% . Don't know 22% . Disagree 14% . ----------------------------------------------------------------- SEATTLE TIMES

----------------------------------------------------------------- Top reasons peoplevoted for the stadium:

We need the Seahawks. It will benefit the economy. It's good for the city's civic pride. We need a new stadium. It won't raise taxes. ----------------------------------------------------------------- SEATTLE TIMES

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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