On Thursday, a lawyer filed a petition for a potential referendum on behalf of a group seeking to overturn $135 million in funds for future improvements to Safeco Field.
In May, the Seattle 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. That proposal proved controversial, as some county officials called for a greater share of those funds to go toward affordable housing.
Ultimately, Metropolitan King County Council voted on September 17 to allocate $135 million in hotel/motel tax revenue toward future Safeco Field improvements starting in 2021. In the aftermath of that vote, an unidentified group of citizens is seeking to make that funding the subject of a ballot question during the February 12 special election, as was confirmed by a lawyer who filed a petition on their behalf. That action does not mean that the question will automatically make the ballot, but it is a first step in a possible signature drive. More from the Seattle Times:
Seattle-based labor attorney Dmitri Iglitzin filed paperwork with the county for a potential referendum on behalf of a new group called the “Citizens Against Sports Stadium Subsidies.” The petition is the first step of a potential signature-gathering process required to put a referendum on the ballot.
Iglitzin said it’s still unclear if the signature drive will happen – he said the petition had to be filed Thursday because it was the deadline to start the process for a potential referendum.
He also declined to identify members of the CASSS group or whether it had any funding to hire signature gatherers, which is typically needed to gather signatures on a large scale. He called the group “a coalition of organizations and individuals that opposes public subsidies of sports stadiums and professional sports teams.”
The group would need to collect the signatures of more than 40,000 registered county voters for the issue to reach the ballot, and do so by November 2.
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. The Mariners had warned prior to the September 17 vote that a rejection of county funding would force them and the PFD to go back to the drawing board in their long-term lease negotiations.
RELATED STORIES: County Gives Final Approval to Safeco Field Funding; 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