Stadium `Not A Good Deal' -- Hawks To Lose Money Until New Facility Is Open

Paul Allen's campaign for a new football stadium yesterday unveiled a shiny new architect's model of what he'd like to build - and an accountant's spreadsheet claiming it's not a great business deal.

Football Northwest, the group Allen formed to buy the Seattle Seahawks, said yesterday the team would lose an estimated $17 million in 1997 and would not be profitable until a new stadium opened.

"That's why nobody else wanted to step into this," said Bert Kolde, vice president of Football Northwest, the group Allen set up to buy the football team. "The return just isn't there."

But Chris Van Dyk, head of the Stop Stadium Madness group, responded that if the stadium isn't a good business deal for Allen, then it isn't a good deal for the public, either.

With just 11 days left before the final balloting on Referendum 48, a financing package for a new outdoor stadium and adjacent exhibition hall, Football Northwest released for the first time its financial projections for the new facility. The numbers, first requested by reporters a month ago, were made public too late yesterday for an independent analysis.

If Referendum 48 fails, Allen says he won't purchase the Seahawks from current owner Ken Behring.

Allen and others have asked the state to pass the $425 million financing package for an outdoor football stadium and exhibition hall in a June 17 election.

Football Northwest officials say the team lost between $5 million and $8 million last year playing in the Kingdome but that a new stadium would make the team profitable as soon as it opens.

In 2002, their estimates show the team making $7 million, with profits growing about 4 percent a year to $29 million in 2020.

Kolde said that between 1998 and 2020, Allen's Seahawks operation could be expected to make a total of $287 million.

Despite such profits, Kolde contends the Seahawks would be a bad investment for Allen, a Microsoft co-founder.

Kolde said that investing the same amount of money in a U.S. Treasury bill paying 6.9 percent would make nearly $1.4 billion over the same time period.

Van Dyk said the same thing applies to the public. The same investment, he argues, would be of much greater benefit to the public if it was in something other than a football stadium - or even left in taxpayers' pockets.

What the figures don't take into account is the potential increase in the value of the franchise itself.

The Seahawks were first purchased for $16 million in 1975. The team was then sold to Behring for $80 million in 1988. Allen, if he exercises his option to buy the team, will pay Behring $200 million - a 150 percent increase in value.

Voters will decide on a package that includes new lottery games, an extension of the hotel-motel tax in King County, taxes on stadium tickets and parking, and a state sales-tax exemption.

The proceeds would build a new stadium, exhibition hall and parking garage as well as raze the Kingdome and pay off its existing debt. The public contribution would be capped at $300 million.

Allen would put in $50 million in cash and sell $50 million worth of personal seat licenses.

Architects hired by Allen displayed a new stadium model yesterday that resembles a first cousin to the new Mariner outdoor ballpark, which is being built directly to the south.

The walls would be of red brick and beige stone like the baseball stadium and other Pioneer Square buildings. The roof, covering 70 percent of the seats, would have supports matching those on the ballpark's massive retractable roof.