After months of letting others do the talking, potential Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen is attempting to explain to voters himself why they should approve a plan to replace the Kingdome with a new football stadium.
Allen, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder who usually shuns media attention, began appearing Monday in a television ad urging support for Referendum 48, the $425 million stadium ballot question to be decided June 17.
Previous ads have focused on information about the project presented by an unseen narrator, and the campaign so far has generated little enthusiasm from a public weary of stadium fights and suspicious of the rich businessman’s intentions. Allen’s reluctance to speak out himself also has led to speculation that he’ll buy the Seahawks from Californian Ken Behring regardless of whether voters approve a new stadium.
Allen’s ad is designed to quash such theories and reiterate that he got involved at the request of civic leaders and with the condition that the public participate.
“When I said yes to help save the Seahawks, I meant that I’d do my part in building something for the future, personally and financially,” says Allen, looking comfortable in an open-collared shirt.
“If you vote yes, I’ll do what it takes to make the new stadium and exhibition center a success. I stand by that commitment. But if you say no, that means no for me, too, because I’m not doing this without you,” he adds.
“When I said that you’ll have the final say, I meant it. Together we can leave something for future generations.”
The Allen ad began running at a crucial time, as ballots are being delivered to voters in the 27 of Washington’s 39 counties that are voting by mail only.
Allen, who has spent at least $3.2 million in the past month and has bought much of the available ad time on stations around the state, doesn’t figure to get much competition from the opposition group “No on 48,” which began running one ad Monday and hopes to raise enough cash to run a couple of shorter ones later this week.
The opposition ad features two children playing a “Build a Stadium” board game. The boy, playing the part of Allen, takes most of the money while the girl, playing the part of taxpayers, gets fleeced.
The ad is designed to show voters that, under Referendum 48, taxpayers would pay for most of the stadium and exhibition center that would replace the Kingdome, but Allen would get most of the profits.
Under Referendum 48, which was sent to the ballot by the Legislature, the public’s $300 million portion of the new stadium would come from lottery games, tax breaks, an extension of the King County hotel tax, higher taxes on stadium parking and admissions, and interest earned from Allen’s down payment.
Allen would guarantee $100 million in private contributions, at least half of which he plans to recover from the sale of seat licenses to fans. He also would cover cost overruns.
A deferral of the state sales tax on construction would account for the remaining $25 million.
Meanwhile, Seahawks boosters embarked Monday on a three-day statewide bus tour to build support for Referendum 48. Former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox was among those urging people to support Allen so he’ll buy the team from Behring, who tried to move the club to Southern California last year.
Stops include Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Kelso, Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, Ritzville and Cheney.