Traffic? We’re talking about traffic? (Read that in a Jim Mora voice for added effect.)
Before you go ahead and ask why traffic congestion is worthy of its own post, let me ask you this – have you ever driven extensively in the Seattle area? Traffic may seem like a minor issue for Hansen’s proposed new arena in Sodo, but try telling that to Seattle residents.
Seattle is notorious for its bad traffic (in fact, it ranks as the fourth worst among all American cities in terms of traffic congestion.).
A new study by Tom Tom Traffic Data finds Seattle traffic congestion has gone from bad to worse. And if that’s not bad enough, it’s getting worse faster than anywhere else in North America. The study found that for every hour spent on the road, 35 minutes of it is spent in traffic slowdowns.
The opposition of Chris Hansen’s proposed arena in the Sodo area were quick to bring up the traffic issue. With CenturyLink Field and SafeCo Field right beside the new arena’s potential location, traffic patterns and roadways would have to be altered significantly to minimize potential traffic nightmares (CenturyLink seats up to 67,000 while Safeco can hold just under 50,000). Imagine the potential of three teams playing on the same day (Seahawks or Sounders, Mariners, and an NBA or NHL team). How the heck would close to 150,000 people be able to navigate in and out of the SoDo area?
The Port of Seattle was a major opponent of the arena deal this past summer, and they listed nine points for how the new arena would negatively impact their business. The Port supports 30,000 jobs in the region, and generates annual revenues of approximately $3 million.
The Mariners were also originally opposed to the arena deal for similar reasons, but many believe they were attempting to prevent increased competition in the professional sports industry. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, from April of 2012:
The proposed Sodo location, in our view, simply does not work. It would bring scheduling, traffic and parking challenges that would likely require hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate.
And, in case you were wondering, SafeCo Field was funded primarily with public money ($400 million of it, to be exact). The Seahawks didn’t voice any complaints, nor did the Seattle Sounders (MLS), who also play their home games at CenturyLink Field.
The city and Hansen were able to renegotiate a deal that quieted many of the complaints from these opposing parties.
The reworked agreement directs $40 million in tax revenues from the arena to a transportation fund to ensure freight mobility in the Sodo neighborhood and to pay for a study of how to protect Port of Seattle operations and industrial lands after the arena is built.
The $40 million transportation fund could eventually be leveraged to secure further investments from the Port or other organizations in the area to improve the traffic situation.
Traffic as it stands right now is a problem in Seattle. With a new multi-purpose arena comes increased traffic. However, Hansen can’t be expected to remedy a problem that existed long before he arrived on the scene. He has taken significant measures to ensure that the arena’s impacts on local traffic are minimal. His constructive, open negotiating led to an important, legitimate, and tangible solution. An analogy to the situation:
“I certainly don’t think Chris [Hansen] should be expected to pay for all of it, any more than if you built the last house on the block you should be expected to pay for paving the entire street.”
Instead of trying to strong arm his opponents, Hansen came to the negotiation table looking to make a deal work for all stakeholders involved – something that the NHL and NHLPA need to learn.