The loss of the Sonics remains a civic wound, but building a new arena on spec won't fix that. Perhaps it would lure the NHL. Is it important to the economy?

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When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? — John Maynard Keynes

When Chris Hansen’s arena deal was getting solid in 2012, I was generally in favor. It appeared to be one of the best in pro sports as far as the ratio of private to public money. Returning the beloved Sonics was important. And while the Port of Seattle’s concerns were not immaterial, I thought good workarounds could be accomplished. (Sample column are here and here).

Now I’ve changed my mind. (And no, nobody’s leaned on me).

The new effort doesn’t guarantee a revived Sonics. For whatever reason, the NBA has decided it doesn’t want Seattle’s loyal fan base and considerable disposable income. Hockey? Meh. (With all due respect to retired Expeditors CEO Pete Rose).

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The biggest reason for my skepticism is that it puts us on the hook for one more asset to blackmail us. Whatever “state of the art” arena would be built, apparently on spec at that, would be “old” in just a few years. And the team owners, assuming we got a team, would be threatening to move to the suburbs or Tornado Alley unless we ponied up more millions for an even better venue. It’s a fool’s treadmill.

Big-league sports are part of a wider phenomenon in our society where wealthy owners and major corporations play cities and states off against each other. The prize: to suck as much public money as possible upward to them. This is today’s welfare-as-we-know-it. Washington taxpayers are on the hook to a certain company to the tune of billions, and jobs are still being moved.

I’m not naive enough to think it would be a one-for-one trade. That, for example, the bonding power for an arena would be used for, say, better transit. And Seattle saying no won’t stop other places, where a pro team is sold as an economic jewel. But Seattle is enjoying one of the largest economic booms in the United States. It doesn’t need a spec arena.

But that’s just me. What do you think?


This Week’s Links:

U.S. still faces a gap of 3.9 million jobs | The Hamilton Project

A solid April for jobs, but not in manufacturing | Jared Bernstein

Seventy five ways ‘socialism’ has improved America | Daily Kos

There hasn’t been this much carbon in the atmosphere for millions of years | Motherboard

Bank of America’s relief for mortgage borrowers is questioned | Gretchen Morgenson

Some international minimum-wage comparisons | Tim Taylor

U.S. potential economic growth: improving with age? | Liberty Street Economics

The foreclosure crisis caused a great migration in miniature | Naked Capitalism


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Gone and forgotten

Underemployed, temps, “too old”

The ‘makers’ took them


I invite you to follow me on Twitter @jontalton