Kent’s ShoWare Center could get county funds from lodging tax | Update

Arena would receive $203,000 in 2021 under proposal

The city of Kent’s accesso ShoWare Center could get about $203,000 a year starting in 2021 to 2029 from a King County lodging tax to help pay for capital maintenance at the 6,200-seat arena.

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced plans May 23 to submit the proposal to the County Council as part of a package to allocate hotel/motel tax revenues for arts programs, museums, workforce housing, and programs for homeless youth. Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, will receive about $4 million a year beginning in 2021, according to a county news release.

Since 1967, hotel/motel taxes have funded regional sports stadiums and also, later, arts programs. With the last of the CenturyLink Field debt paid off by 2020, King County will receive approximately $36 million in 2021, according to a county news release. As created by state law, the tax has no sunset.

Beginning in 2021, by state statute, King County will transfer 37.5 percent of lodging tax revenue – roughly $13.5 million annually and expected to rise over time – to 4Culture to support art, cultural and heritage facilities, as well as the performing arts.

Also under state law, another 37.5 percent will be directed to the county Department of Community and Human Services to support transit-oriented housing development or services for homeless youth.

Constantine proposes allocating the remaining funds beginning in 2021 to programs and facilities that attract visitors to the region, as directed by state statute. This would include a new fund, in coordination with the visitor industry, to bring tourists and business travelers to the region, an allocation to the public facilities districts that own Safeco Field and the ShoWare Center, and other investments as determined by the County Council.

Constantine, in consultation with the council, will develop a strategic plan outlining potential investments in arts, heritage, historic preservation and culture throughout King County, across all funding sources. The plan will be forwarded to the council by the end this year.

“Hotel/motel taxes were established 50 years ago so that visitors would pay to build the Kingdome and bring Major League Baseball and the NFL to town,” Constantine said. “As a consequence of this lease, a small portion of those visitor taxes – roughly 12 percent – will go toward upkeep of the nuts and bolts of our iconic ballpark. It will also help maintain the publicly owned ShoWare Center in Kent. About 85 percent of the hotel/motel funds will be directed to other public purposes, with 75 percent supporting affordable housing and the arts.”

If the County Council adopts the motion, Constantine will transmit a series of ordinances to the council by the end of the year to enact specific aspects of this proposal.

Upthegrove against proposal

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, whose District 5 includes parts of Kent, said in a press release that he opposes the stadium funding proposal that earmarks public dollars for Safeco Field over the next two decades.

“The proposal to earmark roughly $180 million (as hotel tax revenue is projected to increase each year) in public funds for Safeco Field is the wrong priority,” Upthegrove said. “The Seattle Mariners are a profitable, private company that can and should pay their own expenses.

“We have an affordability crisis in our region and this money would be better spent on affordable housing and getting homeless kids off the street. It is outrageous that we’re considering spending $180 million public dollars to benefit a single business instead of folks who are struggling to get by.”

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