WENATCHEE -- The Seattle and King County councils will soon consider issuing a combined $200 million in bonds to help cover the costs of building a new basketball and hockey arena -- debt supporters say would be paid off by revenues generated by the new facility.
But on the other side of the Cascades, one city's experience with a similar project may offer a warning.
In Wenatchee, a default on debt owed on a new arena is forcing the city to make some painful budget cuts.
Eight firefighters will be cut from the small city's firefighting force -- a full third of Wenatchee's firefighters.
The problem is the Toyota Town Center, a sports and entertainment complex that was completed just as the recession was hitting its hardest.
"We spent $10 million trying to keep that thing afloat," said Frank Kuntz, Wenatchee's new mayor.
New sales tax increases that would lessen the arena's burden on the budget won't kick in for months, and concessions from unions representing city employees aren't enough.
"This is like the Greek austerity program...I don't have any other places to go," Kuntz said.
The city lacked a tax base large enough to support the debt on the arena. The mayor said it may take another 18 months to see if the city can turn its finances around.
And its not just Wenatchee that will suffer. Cuts the city's firefighting force will affect surrounding communities that often rely on Wenatchee's responders to help out their even smaller forces.