In a 5-4 vote Monday, the Metropolitan King County Council gave final approval to $135 million in funds for future improvements to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.
On September 5, the same funding allocation was approved in a 5-4 committee vote, so Monday’s decision was not surprising. It did, however, come after considerable debate over the past few months.
In May, the Mariners announced that they had come to terms on a 25-year lease extension with the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District (PFD) that outlined future ballpark maintenance and upgrades. To cover some of the funding for future ballpark improvements, King County executive Dow Constantine proposed directing 12 percent of hotel/motel tax revenues to the PFD, with roughly $180 million over time going toward Safeco Field. However, that proposal proved controversial, as some county officials called for a greater share of those funds to go toward affordable housing.
As a result of Monday’s vote, the county will allocate $135 million in hotel/motel tax revenue starting in 2021. The Mariners had previously warned that scrapping the funds could cause them and the PFD to go back to the drawing board in their long-term lease negotiations, but indicated after Monday’s decision that they are prepared to move forward with finalizing the lease extension. More from the Seattle Times:
The council knocked down the funding amount to $135 million after public criticism, which included heated meetings where dozens of housing advocates argued the funds would be better used on affordable housing. Ultimately, money for housing was beefed up in council negotiations, at the expense of funding for general tourism promotion, which could hurt local businesses that rely on visitors….
The Mariners have said the team expects to sign a long-term lease once the funding is approved, despite the allocation’s being less than what the team wanted. The team’s current lease expires at the end of this year.
In a statement after the vote, the Mariners thanked the council for helping to “protect an important public asset.”
“We can now move forward with finalizing a lease agreement with the PFD that ensures Safeco Field continues to be a first-class ballpark, community asset and economic engine for our region for generations to come,” the team’s statement said.
The 25-year lease extension announced by the Mariners and the PFD called for future Safeco Field upgrades. The two sides commissioned a study by Populous, which found that $385 million over 25 years will be needed for capital improvements to ballpark infrastructure. Additionally, another $160 million is expected to cover upgrades beyond any infrastructure enhancements. Over the course of their new lease agreement, the Mariners would be expected to pay $250 million toward ballpark maintenance, plus $120 million toward a capital expenditure fund.
RELATED STORIES: King County Approves $135M in Safeco Field Funding; King County Delays Decision on Safeco Field Funding; Councilmember Withdraws Support of Safeco Field Funding Bill; Safeco Field Lease Extension Could Be Scrapped Without Lodging Tax Funds; King County Official Balks at Safeco Field Proposal; Mariners Sign 25-Year Lease Extension for Safeco Field, Through 2049