Politics Yupdating Key Arena
NBA Commissioner David Stern testified in Olympia today for SB 6849, which would extend the Qwest Field and Safeco taxes (including a .5 percent restaurant and bar tax) to fund a $200 million KeyArena remodel for the Sonics.
Stern was asked how adding more luxury box suites was going to solve the problem if the current problem is that luxury box suites aren’t selling. (Indeed, revenues from luxury suites are supposed to be paying off the $130 million 1995 KeyArena remodel—debt service included—but the city is paying out about $2.2 million a year to cover the Sonics’ shortfall.)
Stern’s answer (unwittingly) showed why the Key Arena remodel is unfair. Stern began: “There wouldn’t be more luxury boxes. I didn’t say that. I said there will be more amenities.” He concluded: “We would be enhancing the size in the luxury suite areas. More restaurants and other amenities that people attending the game tend to enjoy.”
Stern was acknowledging that increasing the size of KeyArena from 350K square feet to 700K square feet isn’t about adding more seating capacity—it’s about Yupdating KeyArena for high-end customers. (They’re doubling the square footage and only adding about 425 seats for basketball games.) And more important: It’s about keeping them in KeyArena rather than having them venture out into Queen Anne and patronizing the bars and restaurants there. This is the NBA’s model. A one-stop shop.
Someone should have asked Stern why local bars and restaurants (particularly those in Queen Anne) should have to pay a .5 percent tax to support their direct competition.