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Eye On Olympia

More on UW’s stadium bid…

More on the UW stadium proposal, from a story I had in this morning’s paper:

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said that not a single one of the House’s 97 other lawmakers has asked him to support the proposal.

“That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?” he said.

Asked if the proposal will not be approved this session, Chopp said: “That’s fair to say.”

A top university official said UW is unfazed.

“We’re going to go forward with it and schedule a hearing in the Senate,” said the vice president of external affairs, Scott Woodward. “We know it’s a very uphill battle, but we have a good story, and it will be told.”

On the other side of the Capitol dome, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said that the proposal has fans and foes among Senate Democrats. Nobody is disputing the need for renovation and safety upgrades to the stadium, she said, but some lawmakers are concerned about athletics taking priority over academics.

“It’s a little hard to call, but it doesn’t seem to be moving rapidly through the process,” Brown said.

The UW proposal would not tap any statewide tax dollars. Instead, it would use existing King County taxes – a hotel tax, car-rental tax and restaurant tax – that are now paying off the construction bonds for Safeco Field, Qwest Field and the old Kingdome. Those projects are slated to be paid off early. Under UW’s plan, the state would simply leave the taxes in place but steer them to the university to pay half the cost of a $300 million stadium overhaul. The remaining half would come from Husky supporter donations and fees for premium seats.

“It made sense because we, in a big way, contribute to the economic development and tourism trade in Seattle,” said Woodward, who also serves as UW’s interim athletic director.

The reactions from Cougars fans have tended to fall into two camps, according to www.cougfan.com co-founder and publisher Greg Witter.

“Some people, I think, are of the mind that it’s a brazen money grab,” said Witter, who lives near Husky Stadium in Seattle. “Others are saying, ‘If our legislators are in a giving mood, then WSU alums should be lobbying long and loud for a rider to renovate Martin Stadium,’ ” Witter said.

As it happens, WSU is just wrapping up the second of four phases of a $70 million renovation of its stadium. The project is being paid for with student fees, donations from friends and alumni, fees on season tickets and other revenue, said Witter, part of an alumni group helping to raise money for the final phases.

Chopp has taken heat from Seattle-area newspaper writers this week for saying that he was more open to UW’s idea than he had been to the Sonics’.

He stressed Thursday that he’s not pushing the request himself.

“All I said, at the request of former Gov. (Daniel) Evans, was that I’d take a look at the proposal,” he said. “… We’d consider it. That’s the extent of it.”


Read the full print story here.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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