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Mariners public financing proposal continues to raise questions

The stadium lease deal negotiated for the Mariners continues to raise questions about how the money will be spent.
A look at the new sod inside Safeco Field, Nov. 9, 2017. It's the first full-field replacement since the stadium opened in 1999. (Credit; Bob Christofferson)

One member of the Public Facilities District is raising more questions about the Seattle Mariners intent to spend $184 million in hotel-motel taxes.

Craig Kinzer, who voted against a term sheet for a 25-year lease extension, raised questions during the meeting on Thursday.

“There is a controversy that's out there right now. Is this money really going to the stadium or is it just relieving the Mariners of an obligation, so it’s really just money, fungible, that they can use for something else?” Kinzer asked the PFD attorney.

There have been questions raised over what kind of general upkeep the money would be used for, and those answers were not discussed at the meeting. Gerry Johnson, the PFD’s legal advisor, told the board “we don't within the structure of the new lease assign responsibility to the Mariners or the PFD for certain types of improvements.”

The King County Council needs to approve the deal negotiated by the PFD, the Mariners and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Councilmember Dave Upthegrove was the first to suggest the money could be used for affordable housing or other priorities. He has since been joined by Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who had originally co-sponsored the lease extension legislation.

There is another public hearing scheduled for later this month. The M’s lease at Safeco Field expires at the end of this year. The franchise moved in back in 1999.

The Mariners General Counsel Fred Rivera has indicated the franchise would be open to signing a shorter term lease, maybe 5 years, if the Council did not approve the offer on the table. The M’s have pledged to also spend hundreds of millions in their own dollars on the upkeep of the stadium during the course of the 25-year extension.

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