King County Councilmember Larry Gossett has added his name to a growing list of opponents of another major public subsidy for Safeco Field.
Gossett made the comments during a public hearing blatantly designed to cheerlead the importance of professional sports in Seattle.
King County Councilmember Pete Von Reichbauer, a vocal proponent of the Mariners organization, hosted the “Regional Policy Committee” at the King County Council chambers. He was flanked by other elected officials, but started the meeting by saying, “If we didn't have sports what would we cheer about?”
Von Reichbauer invited representatives of the Seahawks, Mariners, and Seattle Sports Commission, including former Mariners catcher Dave Valle and Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux. All gave presentations about community service and the impact each team brings.
Von Reichbauer is a co-sponsor of the bill to give the Mariners roughly $180 million in hotel-motel taxes to upgrade Safeco Field.
However, after each group gave their presentation, Gossett made it transparent what the meeting was really about.
“The primary issue facing us today as King County Council members is whether or not there should be substantial financial support (for the M’s),” he said from the dais, with the Mariners officials sitting at a table in front of him.
Gossett then recited a couple recent articles on the subject, and noted, “Why in the world does the public not only in King County but across the country keep giving public tax dollars to very wealthy professional teams,” he said, continuing, “The owners could easily come up with 190 million dollars in 15-20 years, and that still remains the crux of the issue.”
Von Reichbauer interjected, “The facility is not owned by the owners, it’s owned by the public facilities district.”
That’s been a common refrain from the Mariners, as the opposition has built against the proposal. Earlier this year, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the term sheet for a new 25-year-lease, which includes the Mariners spending millions of private dollars on Safeco Field, and the public subsidy.
At the time, three council members signed on to the bill, including Von Reichbauer, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Joe McDermott. However, Kohl-Welles has since pulled her support and joined her fellow colleague Dave Upthegrove in suggesting the tax stream be used to build affordable housing. Kohl-Welles has further suggested the Mariners should only receive $25 million from the original request.
Gossett told KING5 after the hearing, that he’s supportive of Kohl-Welles' idea.
The Mariners lease at Safeco Field expires this year. It opened in 1999.
Taxpayers paid $380 million of the stadium’s original $517 million dollar construction price tag.
A public hearing on the issue is scheduled on August 29, at King County Council chambers.