Since reporting on Monday about group's plans for an initiative that would renovate KeyArena or build a new stadium to help bring the NBA back to Seattle, a new Survey USA poll has shown major support for the proposal and initiative backers say they've expanded their plans—responding to public enthusiasm—to make sure a new facility could also accommodate hockey.

"I have been shocked by the extent of the excitement," says former city council member Judy Nicastro, one one several people drafting the measure. "The goal is have a new facility for multiple uses, NBA use, NHL use, for concerts."

The more varied the uses of the facility, the more successfully the initiative, which would create a public facility district, could fund the project. If passed by King County voters this fall, the bond measure would leverage future user fees and entertainment surcharges at the venue to pay for renovating KeyArena or building a new stadium. The measure, Nicastro says, wouldn't rely on taxes or public funding.

"Hopefully, the way we're doing this, adding NHL would really help us," Nicastro says. Currently, Seattle's hockey team, the Thunderbirds, play far outside the city limits and are not part of the NHL. Sharing a facility with an NBA team would increase the arena's total users and thus, help pay for the estimated $100 million required for construction (in addition to private financing). "One more use will bring in more revenue."

SurveyUSA released a new poll last night that showed 72 percent of local residents support building a new NBA arena that doesn't require public tax money. The pollster asked 500 people, and here's how they responded:

The Question: an arena could be built for a new NBA team without using any taxpayer dollars, would you support? or oppose? building an arena?
  • SurveyUSA
  • The Question: "an arena could be built for a new NBA team without using any taxpayer dollars, would you support? or oppose? building an arena?"

"It is clearly a winner," says Nicastro. "I wish I were in office—I would do this for political reasons."

SurveyUSA also found that 41 percent of respondents wanted a team, compared to only 18 percent who didn't want a team. Meanwhile, 42 percent of people don't care either way. The survey says that 41 percent of folks would be very or somewhat interested in attending an NBA game if the arena were built in Seattle, while only 29 percent of area residents would be very or somewhat interested in attending if the new facility were built in Bellevue.

"People do like sports in our region, we just don’t want to pay for it," she says. "We want users to pay for it. That’s fair." She adds that there are model facilities that rely on user fees without "outrageous ticket process. They are all over the county."

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Nicastro intends to ask the King County Council to forward the measure to voters on the fall ballot, bypassing the standard process of circulating petitions. "We’re shooting [to provide ballot language to the council] for the end of June or the beginning of July," she says. "But if we can, we will get it done even sooner."

But time is running out to make the November ballot, say county officials. The council would need to pass the measure by the end of July—after holding meetings and hearings to discuss the measure. However, drafting an initiative that complies with county rules for financing is time consuming, says Nicastro, adding, "The only thing that could help move this faster are the elected officials. They have staff resources."

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