NASCAR financing plan a clunker, Sonics deserve hard look


In Our Opinion

For an east-sider, the plans currently floating around to save the Seattle SuperSonics and to bring a NASCAR track to Washington state bring on stomach cramps.

Still smarting from the defection of the Seahawks from Cheney in summertime, it's tough for anyone from this area to shed many tears if the Sonics pack up and head to a new town.

With the last championship nearly three decades ago, it's easy to ask the Sonics, “What have you done for me lately?”

Besides, around these parts, we've grown used to watching the pros on television, so you can take that “We're gonna move!” gun away from our heads, thanks.

As for NASCAR, certainly there would be a select contingent of local folks who would dig out their old Earnhardt “Intimidator” shades or fly their Kyle Petty colors and make the 300-mile trip to Bremerton or wherever for a summer circuit stop.

The rest of us, though, find it tough to love a sport that consists of gaudily painted automobiles going around and around in a circle for a couple of hours.

There are some differences in the proposals, however.

And it's too bad that the Sonics have gotten lumped in with NASCAR for the cattle call of legislative action and taxpayer funding.

It's tempting to cover your ears and stop listening after the words “$300-$500 million in public financing” for a new arena for the Sonics.

After all, the debt wasn't even retired on the old Kingdome after it was razed to make way for Qwest Field. And that was after taxpayers already agreed to help finance Safeco Field for the Mariners.

But the current plan to replace aging KeyArena would not only benefit the Sonics.

The proposed venue would be available for concerts, conventions, corporate meetings, NCAA regional playoffs, arena football and NHL hockey. And the Storm would also have a new home.

The cost is a stunner, for sure.

But there would be no immediate additional taxes; however, the proposed taxing structure used to pay for Safeco Field would be extended – so it's likely the next generation will be paying for it.

The favored idea is to redirect the existing King County restaurant tax (once Safeco is paid for), which amounts to about 50 cents on a $100 dinner.

Other tax sources would include continuing hotel/motel and rental-car taxes in Seattle.

Gov. Christine Gregoire likes the idea and suggests King County residents, not legislators, should vote on the plan.

This editorial board agrees: Those paying the cost should cast the ballots.

As for the rest of it, unfortunately those of us who live east of the Cascades have grown used to a high hotel bill when visiting the Emerald City.

However, if the Sonics go, we'll have one less reason to visit.

(And would it kill the Sonics to pay us back a little by having at least one regular-season game at the Spokane Arena? No exhibition nonsense, either; we want Ray Allen in top form.)

NASCAR, on the other hand, is a totally different can of motor oil.

Let's forget for a moment that Seattle folks are just too snooty to support something like stock-car racing.

However, this quote by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, pretty much says it all: “(NASCAR fans) are not the kind of people you would want living next door to you.

They'd be the ones with the junky cars in the front yard and would try to slip around the law.” Nice.

No, the real issue is that the funding proposal, unlike the Sonics plan, is bad, bad, bad.

The current bill before the Legislature does not designate a location for a track, though Kitsap County and Bremerton are popular choices at the moment.

Taxpayers would not have any say – the vote would go before city councils or county commissioners – and the proposal has quite a few tax breaks and exceptions.

NASCAR hasn't even promised a top event like a Nextel Cup Series race even if the track goes forward.

And, finally, what could the track be possibly used for other than car racing? Oh, one other thing -- maybe this is a dumb question -- but what happens on the many days when it rains?

Bottom line, no matter what comes forward, the people whose wallets are most affected need to be able to vote one way or the other.

Any other plan is all wet.


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