June 13, 1997 in City

Seahawks Stadium Needs To Rally, Poll Finds 53 Percent Of Those Who Already Voted Say ‘No’; King County Holds Key To Victory

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A ballot proposal to build a new football stadium in Seattle faces an uphill fight as Tuesday’s election nears, a new scientific survey indicates.

The $425 million stadium and exhibition center plan faces stiff opposition from women and from voters outside metropolitan Puget Sound, a poll by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research says.

Even more troubling for supporters: Among voters who already have cast their ballots, the proposal is losing.

“I’m not going to say ‘no way,’ particularly since (would-be team owner) Paul Allen has some deep pockets,” said Brad Coker, president of the polling firm. “It will probably be close.”

Supporters and opponents agreed the election remains a tossup.

But Bob Gogerty of the stadium-backing Our Team Works campaign said other recent polls have shown the proposal moving from far behind to slightly ahead.

“We have to all be very careful about these numbers,” Gogerty said. “I think it’s going to go down to the wire, and we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

Chris Van Dyk of Stop Stadium Madness, which opposes the plan, called the results great, although he, too, acknowledged a tight race.

“Great, great, great,” he said. “It flips back to ‘no!”’

The poll, conducted Monday through Wednesday for The Spokesman-Review and KHQ-TV, questioned 439 voters who said they are likely to cast ballots.

Nearly half said they have mailed in their ballots. The rest said they plan to mail ballots or go to the polls on Tuesday.

Only 12 of the state’s 39 counties - including King, Stevens, Lincoln and Whitman - will send voters to the polls. The others, including Spokane, Pend Oreille and Ferry - have mailed ballots to voters.

Among voters who said they have mailed in their ballots, 53 percent said they had voted “no.”

Among those who said they plan to vote - at the polls or by mail - 41 percent said they intend to vote “no,” 35 percent said they plan to vote “yes” and 24 percent said they were undecided.

Undecided voters still can be swayed by the extensive ad campaigns, Coker said. But those who remain undecided by election day usually are more likely to vote “no.”

Stadium supporters are spending heavily to convince those undecided voters the proposal is a good one.

Gogerty noted that a stadium proposal in San Francisco narrowly was approved earlier this month even though many polling firms - including Mason-Dixon - had showed it trailing badly.

“We’re doing things they did in San Francisco like going after the occasional voter” who sometimes does not show up in polls, he said.

Coker agreed that San Francisco voters who decided late seemed to heavily favor the stadium plan after an extensive ad campaign.

But there may be some key differences to consider, he said.

This is a statewide election and it’s a hybrid with voting both by mail and at the polls. San Francisco’s was a city election at the polls.

San Francisco politicians heavily endorsed the stadium plan, with Mayor Willie Brown at one point saying he would stake his political reputation on keeping the San Francisco 49ers in the city.

Although Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and Washington Gov. Gary Locke support the Seahawks stadium, they have not “hung their necks out like that,” Coker said.

The Washington state poll does show the stadium proposal leading in the Seattle-Tacoma region, the state’s most populous.

“If this thing’s going to win, it’s got to win big in King County,” Coker said. “Maybe that’s where they’ve got a shot.”

Voters, according to the poll, are split, but seem clear on one thing - this should be it as far as trying to keep the Seahawks in Seattle.

The team has threatened to move without a new stadium. Potential owner Allen has said repeatedly he will abide by the wishes of the voters and will not extend his option to buy the team if the referendum fails.

Asked if they believe the state should do anything else to try to keep the Seahawks in Seattle, nearly two-thirds - 64 percent - of those polled said “no,” while 22 percent said “yes” and 14 percent said they were unsure.

“People get tired of all these threats to move,” said Coker. “At some point, they just say, ‘Go ahead and go.”’

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Should a stadium be financed by taxes?


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