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February 26, 2006

Why Remodeling Key Arena is Bad for Queen Anne Businesses

Josh Feit of The Stranger hits the nail on the head with his analysis of NBA Comissioner David Stern's testimony in support of a $240 million public subsidy for the Sonics, which is not about increasing seating, or even adding luxury boxes, but expanding the amount of on-site retail & restaurant space.

Stern’s answer (unwittingly) showed why the Key Arena remodel is unfair. Stern began: “There wouldn’t be more luxury boxes. I didn’t say that. I said there will be more amenities.” He concluded: “We would be enhancing the size in the luxury suite areas. More restaurants and other amenities that people attending the game tend to enjoy.”

Stern was acknowledging that increasing the size of KeyArena from 350K square feet to 700K square feet isn’t about adding more seating capacity—it’s about Yupdating KeyArena for high-end customers. (They’re doubling the square footage and only adding about 425 seats for basketball games.)

And more important: It’s about keeping them in KeyArena rather than having them venture out into Queen Anne and patronizing the bars and restaurants there. This is the NBA’s model. A one-stop shop.

Someone should have asked Stern why local bars and restaurants (particularly those in Queen Anne) should have to pay a .5 percent tax to support their direct competition.

If you, like my state Senator, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, are supporting the remodel in the mistaken belief that this is somehow good for Seattle's bars & restaurants, think again.  This is about greedy, incompetent NBA owners like Howard Schultz asking the taxpayers and businesses of Seattle to subsidize his failing business venture.

And I guess now would be a good time to point out the recent study that shows that Seattle Center is economically viable even without the Sonics, and also to highlight Nick Licata's outstanding point-by-point refutation of the shoddy economic arguments advanced by Schultz and the Sonics.

Given the hard numbers that are emerging, I fail to see how any responsible state legislator could be in favor of this boondoggle. 

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 26, 2006 at 01:24 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink

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