Quebec City and Kansas City aren’t the only places trying to draw attention from the NHL to their neighborhood. Seattle has been talked about before as a place that has interest in drawing the league to their city, but like the issues in Quebec City, Seattle doesn’t have an arena in town that’s NHL-ready (Quebec City will have one by 2015).
One Seattle lawmaker is trying to change that around, however, as he’d like to replace the city’s outdated and beat up Key Arena with a sparkling new facility that he thinks will be good enough to draw the NHL as well as the NBA into the U.S. Pacific northwest.
Coincidentally enough, this lawmaker is named Mike Hope and his plan to help fund the new arena is one that takes a nod from the tax codes in Nashville, Tennessee to help make it happen.
The proposed legislation would require local and visiting professional athletes in the NBA, NFL and MLB to pay a fee for every game they play in Seattle. He says a lot of other cities already have similar laws built into their tax revenue. Hope says it would levy $140 million towards a new sports arena. He’s also proposing specialty license plates for Sonics fans, generating another $10 million for bonds.
According to Hope, now is the time for the arena because construction costs are lower than they were in 2006, the last time the idea of building a new arena was floated.
Hope is optimistic the bill will pass because he believes it will gain bi-partisan support. He will be begin lobbying fellow lawmakers soon and officially introduce the bill in January during the regular session.
The idea is nice in thought, but making pro athletes pay up to play in that town is one that already doesn’t sit well with players and agents alike in the NHL. In Tennessee, the tax is known as the “Professional Privilege Tax for Professional Athletes” and is enforced on on pro athletes at the cost of $2,500 per game for up to three games played (PDF). Taking as much as $7,500 from pro athletes is a drop in the bucket for multi-millionaires, but for the kids out of the AHL or on a minimum contract, it’s a punch in the wallet.
With Seattle looking to do something similar to help get their arena built is a noble way to get the job done without a primary investor there willing to put down their own money or without having to ask the tax payers of Seattle to pay for it all themselves. After all, looking to build a new arena on a lark to try and attract one or two new tenants is a lot different than doing it for a team or teams that already call it home.
Seattle has been without a winter sports team since the Sonics were ripped out of the city and moved to Oklahoma City. Getting an NHL team in there to fill the void is an idea that’s been kicked around on the blogosphere since 2008 when the Sonics played their last game in the city. Getting a new arena built without mostly public money is a good thing. Doing it at the expense of the athletes you’re hoping to bring to town to fill the place up, however, seems a bit harsh.
(h/t RedditHockey on Twitter)