Centurylink Field, home to the NFL team Seattle Seahawks and the MLS Soccer team Seattle Sounders FC, is a stadium located within 1 mile of downtown Seattle.The stadium was built between 2000 and 2002 following a statewide vote for the public to help fund the operation, creating the Washington State Public Stadium Authority in the process. The stadium is one of the best home field advantages in football due to its capacity for loud noises, twice breaking the Guinness World Record of stadium decibels for a sporting event (137.6 decibels in 2014). (1) This leads to opposing football teams to have less communication on the field and in turn a higher frequency of penalties. Notable for its open but intimate atmosphere with the Seattle skyline visible from the chairs, the stadium can hold 69,000 people and is one of the premiere locations in the pacific northwest for sporting and non sporting events. (1)
The Seahawks initially played home games at Kingdome Stadium, (the same site as Century Link) from 1976-1999. In 1995, owner Ken Behring issued a proposal to use county funds to help finance a remodeling project on the stadium, and he then threatened to move or sell the team when the proposal failed. In 1997 billionaire Paul Allen purchased the team under the condition that a new stadium be built and help funded by the public, and a state wide legislation vote won by a 51.1% vote that the Seahawks would have a new stadium built. (1) The legislation was ruled by the supreme court to be in the public interest, as it would not only provide a new home for the Seahawks but also a state-of-the-art facility for professional soccer. The budget for the project was $430 Million, with $360 million allocated towards building the stadium, $44 million towards the event center, and $26 million towards the parking garage. In the legislation, public funding was to be capped at $300 million while owner Paul Allen and his stadium operating group “First and Goal inc.” would be on the hook for the remaining cost, which was $130 million. The public funding was comprised of sports related state lottery games, taxes on revenue in the stadium and parking, and a 2% tax on hotel rooms in King County where the stadium resides until 2021 when the stadium is paid off. (1)
In the lease agreement, while the operating group First and Goal Inc. receives 80% of revenue as profit, in return the remaining 20% of revenue goes towards improving state education and they must pay the Washington State Public Stadium Authority $850,000 a year. In addition, coordination with the neighboring stadium Safeco Field, home of the MLB team the Seattle Mariners, is in effect to prevent gridlock traffic in the area. The stadium naming rights were initially sold to a Company Called Qwest in 2004, and later Qwest was aquired by CenturyLink so the name changed from Qwest Field to CenturyLink field in 2013. (1)
Despite the selling of naming rights, whether or not Seattle taxpayers should be on the hook for $300 million of a new sports stadium is a hotly debated topic. According to Forbes, owner Paul Allen is the 45th richest man in the world and to some it does not make sense why he could not fund more. Outspoken All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks has publicly come out and said that he does not believe it is right to have the public taxpayers fund that much for the stadium. (2)
A ThinkProgress article on Sherman and his beliefs encapsulates all of the alternative benefit the public could have instead of new sports stadiums: “According to an analysis from the Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities, $12 billion in public funds were used for 51 new sports facilities between 2001 and 2010. ThinkProgress previously offered suggestions for what could be done with that money, such as finance all subsidies for public school lunches for an entire year, provide year-long methadone maintenance for over 2.5 million drug addicts, or fund a preschool education for every three and four-year-old under the poverty line.” (2) However, while this logic is nice, it is unlikely that schools would bring in the money that people are willing to pay for football and so it is a mute point.
The Seahawks fans are considered to be some of the most loyal in the NFL, especially when it comes to game attendance, earning themselves a nickname of the 12th man (insinuating that their effort and noise at games has the impact and advantage of what would be an additional player.) (1) Following a 2010 home playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints, Seahawks defensive tackle Craig Terrill said “God Bless the Voters”, in reference to the legislation passed for public funding to build the new stadium, inferring the importance the new stadium has to the team and its success. (3) In fact, the Seattle Seahawks hold the NFL record for false start penalties from visiting teams (121 since 2005 at CenturyLink), a quantifiable impact of the acoustic design of the stadium on the quality of life of fans. (5) Seattle has been to the Super Bowl three times since the new stadium has been built, two of which were back to back years in 2013 and 2014 (winning in 2013), and are still considered among one of the top NFL franchises. (61-36 record over the past 6 years.) (6) The city of Seattle also hosts the Seattle Mariners, whose stadium is right next to CenturyLink. Because of the lack of other sports teams in the pacific northwest, Seattle sports teams attract fans from a huge geographic area, from Montana and Alaska to Canada. That is why the Seattle Seahawks lead the NFL in merchandise sales, despite Seattle being the 17th largest media market. (6)
As for the economic impact of the Seahawks value to the city of Seattle, a report from the Seattle Times reported that Eric Schinfeld, chief of staff of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said “the Seahawks have created a “halo effect” in “global brand recognition,” increasing the chances people will want to “move to, visit and invest in Seattle...The 12th Man is an incredible ambassador for the city,” he said. “You can’t buy that kind of advertising.” Indeed, the Super Bowl pulled in 115.5 million viewers, a record.” (4)
Even when considering the positive effects of a good seahawks team, Seattle paying $300 million for a new stadium in theory might sound unfair considering Paul Allen is one of the most wealthy men in the world. (3) But Seattle has already had the pain of watching a cherished professional sports team relocate (See: Oklahoma City Thunder, previously known as the Seattle Supersonics) due to the refusal to publicly fund a new stadium and the citizens likely would not like to watch it happen again. (4)
All in all, the politics behind the legislation for public funding was close. Only a small margin of voters prefered to fund the stadium. Being said, the stadium is one of the trademark things about the Seattle Seahawks who are one of the trademark things about the city of Seattle, aside from Kurt Cobain and lots of rain. The intangible benefits that CenturyLink Field has on the team and city appear to be justifiable in hindsight, even though the argument can be made that owner Paul Allen could afford to pay more for the stadium and tax payers money should go towards something more objectively valuable like education. CenturyLink has helped the Seahawks be iconic and cement their place in NFL history, and for something like mutual fandom of a successful team that is such a uniting commonality between strangers, when the citizens of Seattle invested in CenturyLink field they invested in themselves and the future of their city.
|Austin Vershel||The hawks have been on the upswing that correlates with the same period the city of Seattle has been on the upswing. As the Seahawks window comes to a close, me wonders how the city will be impacted and if the fanbase will remain as loyal through tougher years.|