Eastside Developers Decry Publicly Funded Arena
In a letter mailed September 14 to Eastside "community leaders," influential developers Skip Rowley and Bob Wallace denounced two members of the King County Council for voting to approve using limited public financial resources to build a new arena in Seattle's Sodo neighborhood... instead of building a new arena in Bellevue.
As Rowley and Wallace angrily wrote: "[Kathy] Lambert and [Jane] Hague's support of the Sodo arena damaged efforts by Bellevue officials to build a new arena on the Eastside." They further accused the two Eastside council members of ignoring "the interest of their constituents," using "public financial resources in a time of limited financial resources when cities and counties are struggling to pay for basic services," and being "out of touch with the people who elected them."
One of the main arguments against building a Sodo arena has been that it would steal business away from city-owned KeyArena, leaving taxpayers with a money-losing white elephant. But as this letter makes clear, KeyArena—already on the downslide toward the end of its 25-to-30-year life span—is doomed regardless. Bellevue officials have been courting an arena since before the Sonics left for Oklahoma City, so if Seattle doesn't build one, Bellevue will. As recently as April, Wallace's son and business partner, Bellevue City Council member Kevin Wallace, told the real estate newsletter Bisnow that a Bellevue arena would be "a great economic opportunity" for the city—an opportunity boosters no doubt expected to be funded through a substantial public subsidy, like pretty much every major arena.
And Bob Wallace in particular knows from publicly funded sports facilities. He's the vice chair of the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District that built Safeco Field (largely at taxpayer expense), a position from which he has lobbied elected officials to reject an arena in Sodo.
This, of course, is what makes the Rowley/Wallace letter so utterly laughable. They decry the Sodo arena as "a sweetheart deal for the developer at taxpayer expense" while appearing to seek exactly that for Bellevue. It is concern trolling at its very finest.