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In decision pitting affordable housing vs. sportsball, County Council agrees to put $135M into baseball stadium

(Image: City of Seattle)

Hopefully the future doesn’t judge present-day Seattle by Wednesday’s King County Council compromise on hotel tax revenue. In a 5-4 vote, the council agreed to pay for $135 million in repairs and maintenance at Safeco Field. 

“Providing $135 million in taxpayer funds to subsidize the owners of the Mariners – a private profitable business – is an irresponsible use of public funds,” council member Dave Upthegrove said of his vote against the plan and his opposition to the funding. “Something is broken in our political system when those who already have great wealth can pull the levers of government to benefit themselves.”

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The money will cover the county’s end of maintenance and repair work at the stadium over the next 25 years at the home of the professional baseball club. The team had made the funding a condition of signing a new lease for the facility.

The compromise deal broke a logjam in the legislative process over the tax revenue. Opponents won a $165 million increase in cash to be dedicated to affordable housing in the deal. The compromise dedicates 50% of future revenue, or $661 million, “for investments in affordable housing and homeless youth services,” a statement from the council reads.

Council members Claudia Balducci, Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, Joe McDermott, and Pete von Reichbauer voted for the compromise revenue plan while Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett, Upthegrove, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles voted against it.

The Seattle City Council, meanwhile, will also be dealing with things sporting and stadium Friday as its committee on civic arenas discusses plans between the city and the Oak View Group for renovating Key Arena.

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8 thoughts on “In decision pitting affordable housing vs. sportsball, County Council agrees to put $135M into baseball stadium

  1. It’s hard to take this King County/Seattle proclaimed “homeless emergency” seriously when our elected officials clearly don’t. Obviously baseball is a much more serious emergency. We are never short on money for sports. (Disclaimer, I enjoy sports – but don’t think we should fund their stadiums. We don’t buy Amazon office buildings.)

  2. Just out of curiosity, is KC bound by contract with the mariners to fulfill some sort of maintenance or upkeep of the stadium based on their financing of construction in the late 90s? Beyond the mariners supposedly up and leaving from Seattle if they didn’t get this money, I don’t see why KC should be spending this much if the primary tenant of the building owns responsibility for the majority of wear and tear over the past 20 odd years…

  3. I agree with Sloopy, this is a stunning misuse of city funding. It further proves the city is not taking the homeless crises as seriously as they should. What an embarrassment.

  4. The county should attempt to sell the stadium directly to the Mariners organization if they don’t want to budget for a portion of the maintenance. The team pays for part of it as well.

    This works out to $5.4mm/yr for 25 years.

  5. Uh yeah, the Mariners have been among the very worst teams in baseball for almost 20 years, and Major League baseball itself ain’t so hot these days.

    Why should local government support a really lousy private team in a sports league that is steadily dying out? We’ve all seen the rows upon rows of empty seats at baseball stadiums. Heck, the Mariners can’t even fill Safeco when they are pushing for the playoffs.

    Even if we didn’t have a horrible homelessness problem this would be a stupid and wasteful decision.

  6. Can we send both Dow Constantine and Jay Inslee to Washington DC for important paper-pushing jobs where they won’t bother us?

  7. Why is this not “extortion” on the part of the Mariners? They threatened to take the team out of Seattle if the County didn’t bow down to their demands.