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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

April 4, 2012 at 9:40 AM

Economics of SODO arena make most sense

The Seattle Mariners objections to a new arena in SODO don’t add up when you consider that in downtown Phoenix the NBA Suns and MLB Diamondbacks play right across the street from each other, to use only one example from around the country. This sounds more like an attempt by a team run on the cheap to avoid competition from other professional sports.

Concerns from the Port of Seattle must be taken more seriously. The port is a backbone of the region’s well-paid blue-collar jobs. But I hope city and county officials use this as a starting point to address the port’s concerns than allow another Seattle Commons-like loss to happen.

The economics of the proposed arena are strong. It would be centrally located, able to use existing infrastructure, further boost the region’s downtown and benefit from connections to Link light rail and Sounder trains. A greenfield arena in the suburbs would only add traffic congestion to residential areas, potentially destroy needed open space and lack transit options for fans. The externalities — the largely unmeasured hidden costs — of a totally car-dependent new arena are huge.

As far as other sites in the city, a new Key Arena or something at South Lake Union would be better than a sprawl location. But they would still offer fewer transit options, be more disruptive to neighborhoods and fail to have the synergies of stadiums and arena near each other. The arena may never happen for reasons outside our control. It’s an open question whether the market could support both the NHL and NBA. But forming the familiar Seattle circular firing squad will risk an outcome we’ll regret for years.

And Don’t Miss: Does anyone at Apple have a soul? || Clyde Prestowitz/Foreign Policy

Today’s Econ Haiku:

‘Fulfillment center’

A ‘1984’ ring

Cheap on Amazon

Comments | More in Downtown and urban issues, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Seattle Mariners, Sports business

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