June 19, 1997 in Nation/World

Stadium Headed For Victory Allen, County Draw Up Letter Of Intent; Opponents Hopeful

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Maybe they should be renamed the Puget Sound Seahawks.

Based on ballot-counting that continued Wednesday, it appears likely Washington state will build a pro football and soccer stadium in Seattle.

But the Seahawks will owe their new home as much to the voters in Snohomish and Pierce counties as to those in their namesake city.

Supporters were so optimistic that representatives of potential team owner Paul Allen and King County officials drew up a letter of intent to work out the details of taxes the county must approve and the team purchase option Allen will exercise.

Opponents held out the thinnest of hopes.

“We haven’t conceded defeat,” said Chris Van Dyk of the No on 48 campaign. “We are hopeful.”

Of the votes counted by late Wednesday, 51 percent supported the stadium proposal and 49 percent were against it. That worked out to 721,276 “yes” votes, 698,528 “no” votes.

State elections officials estimate as many as 137,000 ballots will arrive in the mail and be counted by next week, so that margin is not insurmountable.

The question is where those uncounted votes will come from - the Puget Sound region, which gave the proposal heavy support, or the rest of the state that voiced a resounding “no.”

Spokane County has at least 16,000 uncounted ballots on hand, with a few thousand more likely to arrive by Friday when elections supervisor Tom Wilbur plans to tabulate the votes. Spokane voters turned thumbs down on the stadium, with about 63 percent voting “no.” Wilbur said he has no reason to think the final ratio will be significantly different.

The Spokane votes are dwarfed, however, by the 30,000 ballots that arrived at the Snohomish County auditor’s office Wednesday.

In the ballots counted on election night, Snohomish County voters’ 60 percent approval rating for the stadium topped all other counties, even King.

The referendum also passed handily in Pierce, Island and Kitsap.

Outside the Puget Sound region, the only county with a significant population that approved the proposal was Benton County.

Opponents were surprised at the vote totals from outside the metropolitan Puget Sound area. They did best where they spent the least - exactly the opposite of what they had expected.

At one point, opponents had lobbied the Legislature to confine the vote to King County, Van Dyk recalled. In retrospect, they were lucky they lost that fight.

“We’d have been slaughtered,” he said.

Opponents continued to complain about the huge disparity in spending that supporters enjoyed by tapping into billionaire Microsoft co-founder Allen’s pockets.

They talked of changing the law to prevent private interests from paying for another election, which Allen did this time as a condition of putting it on the ballot.

Allen’s representatives Wednesday seemed to acknowledge the old sports adage that statistics are for losers. Rather than worrying about voting patterns and the margin of victory, they were thanking everyone involved.

Bob Whitsitt, president of Football Northwest, described the likely victory as “climbing a huge hurdle that we’ve been told all year was impossible to climb.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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