All interesting, of course, but there’s one big, stinking red flag in the construction of the arena: the pathetic lack of funding from the Seattle Sonics. Since Bennett is so fond of referring to the Pepsi Center, perhaps he – and the rest of the people involved in this taxpayer-funded nonsense – ought to read this paragraph:
“In Denver a state of the art facility, the Pepsi Center, was developed entirely by private funding. The facility which costs $170 million almost didn't get built when one of the original funding partners pulled out of the deal. .... The two primary teams who would play at the new center are the Nuggets and the Avalanche who had a prior lease agreement with the city at the McNichols arena. In order to break the leases, the city wanted a commitment from the Nuggets and the Avalanche to stay in Denver for 25 years at the new center. The teams resisted. There was a stall of building for 2 years. Finally a deal was struck with the city. The arena would be deeded to the city of Denver when it opened but leased back to the teams for 25 years to ensure they did not move during the span of the city's agreement. During the 25 years the city will take all sales tax proceeds generated by the arena as compensation for the teams breaking their prior leases. Ascent Entertainment Group Inc. who owned the Colorado Avalanche, agreed to pay the arena's construction costs and an exemption on a 10% city/county seat tax. At the end of the 25 years, the teams will own the arena. The city was happy that no tax money was spent and the received additional sales taxes from the Pepsi Center. Major sponsors contributed their funds in exchange for naming rights, such as Pepsi, who contributed millions.”
Now, in the dozens if not hundreds of times that Clay Bennett has mentioned how wonderful the Pepsi Center is, has he ever once mentioned how the Denver pro sports teams contributed $170 million to build it? Not to my knowledge, or else he wouldn’t be offering only $100 million to build a newer, more expensive building that will destroy the viability of KeyArena.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the $100 million in city/private funds will include $70 million from Bennett’s associates, in fact Bennett even mentions that “we are continuing to do the work that will allow us to come forward with an acceptable level of contribution.” Of course, he also says that the reason the Sonics can’t contribute any more is because of the team’s poor financial position, while failing to mention that the horrific on-court product – given to us by the people that still run this team - is almost entirely responsible for that poor financial position. Further, he does not mention at any point who will be forced to cover the – inevitable – cost overruns.
Nor does he mention at any point the irony of building new luxury boxes, which will inevitably sabotage the sales efforts of the Mariners and Seahawks, the same problem KeyArena and the Sonics ran into when their luxury box sales plummeted after the construction of Safeco and Quest Fields. But, hey, that’s a problem for the Seahawks and M’s right?
Look, I’m all for the Sonics being in Seattle, I really am. But I am damned sick and tired of taxpayers being asked to fund projects for private enterprises for billionaires when there are scores of non-publicly financed stadiums across the country and when people in this city are sleeping on the streets.
It’s a bluff, folks, and I pray the legislature sees through it in time. My message to Clay Bennett? Go ahead, move to Oklahoma City. Just don’t start crying when 8,537 show up three years from now to watch Mouhamed Sene fumble yet another entry pass in the low post while Ray Allen and his 36-year-old legs do a statue impersonation at the 3-point line.