Poll backed by port interests shows public opposed to arena proposal

Poll backed by port interests shows public opposed to arena proposal

The 3-area parcel of land where Chris Hansen wants to build a new sports arena sits just south of Safeco Field and near the Port of Seattle.

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ChrisDaniels5

KING5.com

Posted on August 10, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 10 at 5:29 PM

A poll of 300 Seattle voters paid for by maritime business and labor interests found that most city residents oppose the proposal to put a new sports arena in the existing stadium district, which abuts the Port of Seattle.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly oppose the arena plan offered by a group of investors led by Chris Hansen. In asking respondents for their views, the survey question noted that the plan includes $200 million in public bonds to be issued by Seattle and King County and repaid by arena taxes and revenues.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they supported the arena plan.

More respondents opposed the plan when they were told that port interests and some elected officials believe a new arena "could cost jobs and worsen transportation problems." Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they opposed using public money to build the arena when told about these concerns, with 35 percent saying they still supported the plan.

The survey, conducted by DHM Research on August 8 and 9, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percent -- meaning it's possible that opposition to the arena plan is much stronger or, alternatively, that a majority of Seattle voters support it.

The survey sample was weighted toward older voters. Forty percent of those polled were ages 55 or older, with 26 percent of the sample above the age of 65. Just 36 percent of the sample was comprised of voters ages 44 and younger.

Asked about the sample's bias toward older voters, a spokesman for the group that sponsored the poll said the sample represented "a statistically accurate representation of registered voters in Seattle."

"In terms of age, older demographics are more likely to register to vote than younger demographics," said Ashley Bach. "The City Council represents not just hardcore Sonics fans in their 20s and 30s but all ages and all demographics," he added. "The council needs to listen to all their constituents on the issue."

Peter McCollum, a spokesman for Hansen, criticized the survey's wording. "The poll released today by arena opponents seems to be more about influencing public opinion than about asking voters what they think. The questions do not come close to accurately describing our arena proposal and leave out some very basic, but critical facts."

Those facts, McCollum said, include: "Public bonds would be paid only from arena tax revenue that would not exist otherwise and from rent paid by the teams," and the "proposal includes unprecedented public protections to ensure team owners, and not taxpayers, cover any cost overruns or shortfalls in tax revenue."

The release of the survey is the latest step taken by the Port of Seattle and its allies to block Hansen's plan. On Tuesday, port officials released three studies that concluded a third sports venue in SODO would create significant challenges to moving freight to and from the port, putting at risk thousands of port-related jobs.

But unlike the reports released earlier in the week, the survey and an accompanying memo to the Seattle Council stressed the public opposition to using city and county bonding authority to support the project.

"As you continue your consideration of the arena proposal brought forth by Chris Hansen," writes port worker and former state lawmaker Max Vekich, "it appears that some City Councilmembers are operating under the assumption that there is strong support among Seattle voters to use public bonding capacity for construction of an arena in Sodo. That is not the case."

KING5.com's Russ Walker contributed.

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