March 28, 1997 in City

Seahawks Appear Headed For Another Defeat Other Issues Taking Priority As Stadium Plan Loses Momentum In Legislature

Chris Mulick Staff writer
 

A plan to put the proposed Seattle Seahawks stadium to a statewide vote is losing momentum as lawmakers turn their attention to other priorities.

Less than a week from a deadline for passing legislation that would send the $425 million issue to voters, some legislative supporters are focusing on budgets and other issues.

After pushing for the stadium all session, Gov. Gary Locke indicated this week he is more interested in worrying about the state budget.

His proposal for a new open-air stadium for the professional football team, including an exhibition center and parking complex, would cost $325 million in public money over the next 20 years. Much of the money would come from a new tax on logobearing merchandise and from users fees.

About $100 million would be contributed by private sources.

A Senate vote on the plan could come as early as today.

Earlier proposals would have imposed a broader tax, including charges on baseball cards. Locke, who wants the stadium tax burden placed on sports fans, said he won’t abandon the idea of taxing memorabilia.

But stadium supporters in the Legislature agree momentum is fading.

“There’s no electricity, no excitement,” said Rep. Steve Van Luven, R-Bellevue, who chairs the House Trade and Economic Development Committee.

“I would still say it could happen,” he said. “Sometimes, things just happen, just like that. It’s the most amazing thing.”

Next Thursday is the deadline for the Legislature to approve a stadium plan and still have time to place the issue on a June 3 special election ballot.

But lawmakers could be preoccupied as they rush to get other bills out of committee before a separate bill-cutoff deadline next Friday.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl, D-Seattle, says lawmakers would have more time to consider the stadium when legislative leaders start meeting in conference committee in a few weeks to iron out the state budget.

Paul Allen’s option to buy the Seahawks from Ken Behring expires July 1. If that deadline can be postponed, a special election also could be delayed.

Allen’s representatives remain hopeful. Bert Kolde, vice chairman of Allen’s Football Northwest Inc., said legislators are paying attention to the issue.

“At the beginning of the session, people weren’t willing to talk about it,” Kolde said. “We’ve come a long way from ground zero.”

Allen’s lobbyists have focused on the Senate and paid relatively little attention to the House. Should a stadium bill get to the House, it could face a tough sell.

“Other than those on my committee, I don’t think there are two people out here who know what we’re working on,” Van Luven said of the stadium plan.

Kolde said he is counting on the momentum that would be generated by Senate passage.

Sen. Jim West, R-Spokane, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is open to a public vote to resolve the issue. But he is waiting for Locke to show him that he has enough votes to pass the proposal.

“With the Mariners (baseball) stadium, voters never got a chance to say no,” West said. “It won’t happen this time. If the voters say no, it means no.”

, DataTimes


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