SBD/Issue 41/Law & Politics

Decision 2006: Seattle Voters Overwhelmingly Approve I-91

Sonics Owner Says Passage Of I-91 Makes
It Harder To Build New Arena In Seattle

Seattle voters by a 3-to-1 ratio approved Initiative 91, which requires the city “to receive a ‘fair value’ cash profit ... in return for services or real estate it provides professional sports franchises,” according to Stuart Eskenazi of the SEATTLE TIMES. The fair value is deemed to be “no less than the rate of return on a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond, which is about 5[%] currently.” However, the passage of I-91 “would not necessarily stop a new arena deal for the Sonics and [WNBA] Storm from being made.” The bill does not restrict “spending county or state taxes on an arena in Seattle -– the tax model used to build Safeco and Qwest fields.” Sonics and Storm Owner Clay Bennett said, “The passage of [I-91] makes it much more difficult to build a multipurpose arena to serve as the new home for the Sonics within the city of Seattle. While Seattle will now be relegated to a second-tier status, we will continue to seek other sites within King County.” Bennett added that the club “will honor its lease at KeyArena, which expires in 2010, and ‘then hopes to relocate to a new facility outside of Seattle but within King County’” (SEATTLE TIMES, 11/8). Chris Van Dyk, who headed the campaign for I-91, said, “With this kind of vote in the city of Seattle, it’s extremely unlikely that any tax subsidy would make its way through the Legislature, particularly one without a public vote [as Bennett has called for]” (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 11/8).

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