Despite outcry from members of the public who criticized a lack of the same investment toward affordable housing, King County Council on Monday approved $135 million in public funding for the Mariners to renovate Safeco Field.
The 5-4 vote allowed lodging tax revenue dollars to be allocated to the Public Facilities District—which owns Safeco Field—for ballpark upkeep, starting in 2021 and through 2043. Critics argue that the billion-dollar company, which lobbied for the funds, can pay for its own renovations for the stadium.
The original legislation, proposed by King County executive Dow Constantine, would have allocated $180 million to the stadium. Public criticism led to the reduction and more money being earmarked for housing, at the expense of tourism funds.
In a statement after the vote, the Mariners said the council helped "protect an important public asset" and can now move forward with a lease agreement with the PFD. Kathy Lambert, Claudia Balducci, Pete von Reichbauer, Joe McDermott, and Reagan Dunn supported the legislation. Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett, Kohl-Welles, and Dave Upthegrove opposed it.
"We need these facilities even beyond baseball," council member Kathy Lambert said, adding that she believes the facility is part of the "fabric of our community" by providing more than just sports games. "We have put lots and lots of money into housing, and we still have the problem."
Shortly after public outcry began, the Mariners said the company will not sign the 25-year lease agreement with the PFD if it didn't receive the public money.
"I think it’s going to feed into the cynicism of the public toward elected officials," Jeanne Kohl-Welles said. "I’m really worried about what this is going to do when we as a council vote to pass ordinances to place other measures on the ballot. The voters look at those ballots and think, 'Why should we put money into this or that when the council was able to provide 135 million to a private corporation?' It doesn’t add up."