By Stephen King.
Having only moved to Seattle recently, I was amazed to stumble upon an ongoing issue regarding the University of Washington’s bid to renovate the Husky Stadium. UW originally planned to ask the Legislature for $150 million, which would be diverted from taxes. Like anything involving a substantial portion of taxpayer’s money, this sparked outrage. Unfortunately, this outrage was for all the wrong reasons.
Many opposed UW’s proposal because they attend a rival university or college, or are part of an alumni. It seems no coincidence that Washington State University graduate Mike Bernard, a Bellevue tax consultant, led the opposition against the stadium proposal. In fact, even during the Apple Cup game, the stadium became a talking point that instigated in-depth political arguments. Perhaps both teams had so little ammunition to use against one another that they were forced to resort to architectural issues.
Another reason that people opposed the idea so fervently was because they believed that there are more important projects than sporting refurbishments. This is true, but honestly, if “more important” was a concept people truly understood, spending would be cut heavily. There are always more important projects to be working on: third-world debt is pretty high on the list. However, this does not mean that renovating Husky Stadium would not contribute to the community. Last year, the stadium itself was used for 50 non-athletic events involving more than 700,000 people, including multiple charity-based events.
What’s more is that the stadium generates revenue for Seattle, King County and Washington State. It has been estimated that the UW athletic program supports over 2,500 jobs, creates $83 million annually in labor income, and generates $211 million in annual sales. On top of this, $12.5 million of Husky Athletics are accrued in tax revenue, $8.2 million to the state.
From an unbiased standpoint, the facts seem somewhat straightforward: Husky Stadium is beginning to resemble ancient ruins at the age of 88, health and safety issues need resolving, handicapped access needs to become available and, importantly, fans need to feel comfortable.
$150 million is a substantial amount of money, especially in comparison to what sits in my cobweb-infested wallet. In comparison to the many projects that occur in cities like Seattle though, this investment is not a ridiculous figure to propose. Washington State Convention and Trade Center is currently planning a $766 million expansion and, at the moment, is being funded almost entirely by hotel tax in the city. Seattle also wants state authorization to renovate Key Arena in an attempt to lure an NBA team toward the city which, over the past year, has dropped its head lower and lower with each sporting failure.
Money is the reason that sporting teams stay in a city and why colleges and universities flourish. Sport generates a large amount of money because of its popularity and, like it or not, sport has become a competitive business, even at the college level. And, like a business, it needs investments. Businesses need to attend to health and safety issues, make their premises handicap accessible and put their clients and customers in a comfortable atmosphere.
So, feel free to argue your case against the renovation of Husky Stadium, but ask yourself: are you doing it for the right reasons. Don’t dismiss an idea based on sporting rivalry or personal interest, Think objectively.
By Stephen King.