A King County Council committee tentatively approved $135 million in public funds for repairs and maintenance Safeco Field. The Seattle Mariners initially asked for $180 million from the county’s lodging taxes.
The council’s Committee of the Whole met Wednesday and approved the compromise legislation by a 5-4 vote. It will now head to the full council for final approval later this month.
“We want to thank the County Executive and members of the County Council who worked out this compromise. If approved by the full Council, we believe we can work with the Public Facilities District to finalize a lease agreement that ensures Safeco Field continues to be a first-class ballpark, community asset and economic engine for our region,” the Seattle Mariners said in a statement.
Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who voted against the funding, said in a statement she was “disappointed with the approach supported by five of my colleagues to provide nearly $135 million in taxpayer dollars to support upgrades and improvements to Safeco Field.”
In a statement, Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who voted in favor of the funding, said “the Seattle Mariners have been good partners with King County, bringing more than 45 million people to Safeco Field over the last 19 years. This partnership has generated millions of tax dollars, created thousands of jobs, and provided countless benefits to non-profit sports programs throughout our region.”
In May, the Mariners agreed to extend their lease at Safeco Field by 25 years. That agreement was contingent upon receiving assistance from lodging taxes for the upkeep of the facility. King County Executive Dow Constantine previously said that revenue has been used in the past to pay for the Kingdome, Safeco, and CenturyLink Field.
Safeco Field, which opened in 1999, was initially publicly financed. Taxpayers footed $380 million of the $517 construction bill.
Providing millions for the upkeep received pushback from some on the council and those gathered for public comment. Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said the money shouldn’t be given to a “profitable, private company that can and should pay their own expenses.”
Other advocates for the homeless called the spending "a slap in the face to neighbors in King County without housing."
Upthegrove and Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles say the money should be used for affordable housing. The compromise proposal does make headway there: it allocates $661 million for affordable housing, up from $496 in the original plan. The updated plan cuts spending not only on the stadium, but reduces the tourism budget from $109.4 million to $8 million.
The Mariners argue the organization would pay for the majority of the $800 million in needed upkeep and improvements over the next 25 years.
Team leaders previously said the need to do work on the retractable roof. There also needs to be a complete repainting of the structural steel, on top of the seats, escalators, and mechanical and plumbing systems, the team says.