SBD/May 24, 2012/Facilities

Study Finds Seattle's Existing Infrastructure Can Support Proposed Sports Arena

An independent study on a proposed sports arena's effect on congestion in Seattle's Sodo neighborhood "has found that the existing infrastructure could support the thousands of additional cars and people who would attend NBA and NHL games," according to Nick Eaton of SEATTLEPI.com. A study released yesterday indicated that even on weeknights with two events -- one at the arena and one at either Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field -- existing or planned "parking lots and transit options could handle the extra traffic." The study also found that the impact on "operations at the Port of Seattle, surrounding industries and train yards would be minimal." The study, conducted by Washington-based firm Parametrix and paid for by hedge fund manager and arena investor Chris Hansen, "took a look at the estimated turnout for a 20,000-seat multipurpose sports venue and found that 6,000 cars would descend on the area for an average weeknight game" (SEATTLEPI.com, 5/23). In Seattle, Emily Heffter notes in a front-page piece the $70,000 study "didn't seem to sway anyone in the debate" over the proposed arena. Freight and Port of Seattle reps said that the study "didn't do enough analysis to ease their concerns about the arena's potential effect on traffic." The four-week study was "cursory," and the consultant "didn't look at data showing traffic flow by time on game days or recommend any major road improvements to accommodate the new arena." Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has argued that it is "not fair to hold Hansen responsible for fixing problems that already exist in Sodo" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/24).

SURVEY SAYS: In Seattle, Lynn Thompson reported a recent poll conducted by Seattle-based Elway Research found that 63% of Seattle voters and 61% of King County (non-Seattle) voters indicated that "any new professional sports arena should be privately financed and that there should be no risk of any public money being needed to pay for the arena." The poll showed half of King County respondents and 49% of Seattle respondents "believed the Sodo location was a good one." Almost the same percentages "supported paying for infrastructure necessary to improve transportation around the arena." However, 61% of Seattle voters and 54% of King County voters said "no" when asked if they would "choose committing taxpayer dollars to the arena versus no arena." The poll "surveyed 201 registered Seattle voters and 207 King County voters." The poll results were released as the Port of Seattle sent a letter to the Seattle and county councils asking that consideration of a Memorandum of Understanding with Hansen "be given close scrutiny." McGinn and King County Exec Dow Constantine last week announced an MOU with Hansen under which he and private investment group ArenaCo. would pay to build a new arena and buy an NBA team (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/23). SEATTLEPI.com's Eaton noted an "unscientific" Seattle Times poll Tuesday of nearly 1,000 people showed 74% of respondents "were supportive of Hansen's plan." Meanwhile, Hansen "indicated that he plans to launch a promotional campaign for the arena in the next few weeks, including a presence on Facebook and Twitter" (SEATTLEPI.com, 5/22).
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