Surprise: Despite potential traffic problems, the Seattle Times editorial board has endorsed a new NBA/NHL arena in Sodo:
In the final form of the package, the biggest concession now given by the city would be the rebate of admissions taxes over 30 years. Through all the turbulence the arena negotiations have caused in and around City Hall, one consideration towers over all: It's ultimately a good deal for the city. Seattle will have the benefit of a new, 18,000-seat facility that it truly needs, paid for by private dollars.
Even with the apparent new plan for an Ackerley-funded 1,800-stall garage at the arena, a significant parking/traffic problem exists around the Kingdome today. And, notes Mayor Norm Rice, it will worsen in the future, regardless of the new arena.
Despite the new Ackerley offer, the need remains for a joint city and county effort - with state involvement, also - to develop a comprehensive traffic-flow and parking plan for the decades ahead in that part of Seattle.
In the meantime, the City Council now should be able to quickly close the agreement on the Ackerley arena, then move on to other city priorities, including an action plan for the Seattle Center.
Oops. That editorial was written in 1990. My bad. But it sure does provide a sharp contrast to the obsessive string of anti-arena editorials we've been seeing from the Seattle Times these days.
Obviously, the arena was never built. Ackerly failed to raise the private financing necessary to build his Sodo arena, but the Seattle Times didn't abandon the notion, writing at the time:
The prospect of an arena at that site led to a broader vision of a sports-entertainment corridor adjacent to Pioneer Square - a corridor that would generate more retail and residential business and lend vitality to that part of the city.
This vision should not be discarded.
So what's changed between now and then? Sure, there are now two new stadiums near where the Kingdome once stood, but there's not much more than the same two tenants. And while retail and residential development along this "sports-entertainment corridor" has increased traffic in the neighborhood, there have been a lot transportation improvements down there too, including light rail, heavy rail, and new freeway interchanges and overpasses. Maritime businesses have some legitimate concerns about freight mobility, but there have long been plans in place but never delivered to address these concerns. To borrow some words, "the need remains for a joint city and county effort - with state involvement."
Twenty-two years ago, when Frank Blethen's friend Barry Ackerly owned the Sonics, the Seattle Times editorial board believed the city was capable of both building an arena in Sodo and addressing the traffic issues in the neighborhood. Apparently, we've become a less capable city in the years hence.