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Seattle lawmaker has a Nashville-like plan to build new arena to draw NHL to city

Oct 3, 2011, 3:46 PM EDT

Seattle AP

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One Seattle lawmaker is trying to change that around, however, as he’d like to replace the city’s outdated and beat up Key Arena with a sparkling new facility that he thinks will be good enough to draw the NHL as well as the NBA into the U.S. Pacific northwest.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)

  1. firemarshal1 - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    It’s a great idea, let the overly paid MLB and NFL players pay for Seattle’s new sports arena. That’s a wonderful idea. Let the sports athletes feel what it’s like to be a common middle class sports fan. They’ll benefit the most. It’s their work place.

    • nhlbruins90 - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:03 PM

      Exactly. They’re the biggest beneficiaries. These tax breaks subsidize their giant salaries, so why shouldn’t they pay up. I wouldn’t mind making an AHL salary, or an NHL minimum contract either. Sure beats digging ditches for a living.

  2. goforthanddie - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    “since the Sonics were ripped out of the city”

    Hardly “ripped”. Try “allowed to walk”.

    • t16rich - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Allowed to walk? Are you an idiot? Aslong as Clay Bennet was calling the shots for the Sonics in 2008, there was no way that the Sonics were staying. They were ripped away. Seattle residents paid for both the Mariners and Seahawks new stadiums. Clay Bennet gave them a choice to build HIM a 3rd arena or he will move the team. He did just that by moving them to his home town. Low blow of a move in my opinion. That arena was only 25 years old or somthing and Seattle taxpayers (from what I understand) were willing to pay for the renovation to it, just wernt willing to go all in and pay for the cities 3rd stadium seeing as they already paid for 2 huge ones. Again that wasnt enough for Clay Bennet. Clay Bennet never had Seattles interest in mind. It was always about taking NBA back to his home town. Oklahoma City is a great franchise, but the Sonics were a great franchise too. Ive said this before but at the Sonics last game a fan had the best sign that said “hang clay bennet next to nate mcmillans jersey.”

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