Politics Seattle Times: Technical Foul
posted by October 18 at 14:59 PMon
The Seattle Times comes out against Initiative 91 today. (I-91 is the angry angry initiative that would prevent the city from subsidizing pro sports teams by mandating a profitable return on the loan.)
Despite I-91’s nasty tenor, The Stranger Election Control Board came out in favor of the initiative (our endorsements hit the street today). I actually wrote a column against the initiative back in June. But we had the proponents (Chris Van Dyk) and opponents (the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce) come in last week—and our board (myself included) ended up siding with Van Dyk.
It was a tough call—the presence of the NBA and WNBA has an intangible, yet satisfying effect on a city, including Seattle. And personally, I’m a big NBA fan. Go! Gilbert Arenas!
But ultimately, we just couldn’t stomach the idea of subsidizing the NBA’s self-important business model: Outrageous salaries; prohibitive ticket prices; and one that revisions stadiums as yuppie entertainment palaces that selfishly and consciously suck business away from the surrounding neighborhood.
And that brings me to my gripe with the Seattle Times’ NO endorsement. They conclude by stating: “The SuperSonics might not be delivering like a 30-year bond, but the team still has a positive impact on businesses.”
Says who? Even chamber of commerce folks who spoke to our edit board didn’t peddle that whopper. (They did talk quite eloquently about the intangible benefits, and again, that made it a tough call for us.)
The Seattle Times needs to cite a source on their suspect claim. Otherwise, it reads like, well, a lie.
I’ve been reporting on this damn issue for several years now. And several recent studies, one by the University of Minnesota, one by the Lincoln Insititute, one by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and another by the CATO Institute found that, if anything, professional sports teams may actually hurt local economies. The CATO study, for example, debunks industry claims that sports teams generate new consumer spending (they actually just suck up existing discretionary spending), and concludes, “the net economic impact [is] a reduction in real per-capita income over the entire metropolitan area.”
As for the Sonics’ recent claim that they pump about $234 million annually into the city, UW Professor Bill Beyers, hired by Seattle Center to do an economic analysis, said the Sonics’ impact study was “not a good study” and that the researcher who did it “did not know what they were doing…”
The economic impact argument would be a convincing and compelling one…if it were true. It’s irresponsible of the Seattle Times to haul it out without proving it…or at least citing the source.