Stadium Won Big In Suburbs -- But Far Away, And In Seattle, Seahawk Issue Less Popular

Maybe they should change the name to the Suburban Seahawks.

The apparent narrow victory of Referendum 48, which would build a new stadium for the Seattle Seahawks, may owe its success to voters in the suburban areas of King and Snohomish counties.

The stadium measure was very unpopular in Eastern Washington.

But it also won only a narrow victory in the city of Seattle and actually was defeated in two of the city's most-liberal areas: the 36th Legislative District of Queen Anne and Magnolia, and the 43rd District (Capitol Hill and the University District).

It won more than 60 percent of the vote in Snohomish County and in areas around Bellevue, Redmond and Issaquah.

The count as of today had the $425 million project maintaining a lead with 50.8 percent of the vote.

More than 100,000 absentees and mail-in ballots - about 8 percent of the total vote - are yet to be counted statewide. But state election officials say they doubt a change in the outcome, because two-thirds of the outstanding votes lie in King and Snohomish counties, where support for the stadium was running strong.

Among the 28,000 absentees tallied late yesterday in King County, 57 percent supported the stadium.

Although the final outcome was a victory, the vote in King County was similar to the 1995 baseball-stadium election, which also was more popular in the suburbs.

"This was not the traditional kind of tax issue, which the city (of Seattle) tends to support," said Bob Gogerty, chief campaign strategist.

"It was a philosophical fight . . . where are your priorities. The city," said Gogerty, "is much, much more liberal."

Gogerty argues that there is an anti-Seattle sentiment that colored the election in other parts of the state, but that within the city precincts, the "no" vote was more of a protest about how the money would be spent - on sports facilities rather than transit, schools or potholes.

Almost immediately yesterday, the county government began the steps to turn over the Kingdome to a new Public Stadium Authority, and with it, the $130 million in debt that had affected county finances.

The Metropolitan King County Council budget committee yesterday approved a letter assuring Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen of the county's full cooperation as he prepares to purchase the team.

Under the referendum, $300 million in public money would be spent on a new stadium, exhibition hall and parking facility.

Allen is expected to pay $200 million for the team. He also will contribute $100 million from his own pocket and other private sources for the stadium project.

Locke to choose board members

The County Council is expected in the next month to create a seven-member Public Stadium Authority to oversee the project. Its board members will be chosen by Gov. Gary Locke. They are expected to contract with Allen's group, Football Northwest, to build and operate the stadium and exhibition hall.

Bud Coffey, a former Boeing executive who lobbied the stadium issue through the Legislature, said Football Northwest plans to send a list of potential appointees to Locke.

The County Council also must authorize an extension of the current 2 percent tax on hotel rooms until 2020 and establish a tax on stadium tickets and parking.

Although the campaign for Referendum 48 was based on tearing down the Kingdome for a new stadium, it will be up to the new stadium authority to officially select a site.

The project must go through an environmental-impact statement, state environmental procedures and city permit processes.

Timing tied to Mariner stadium

Work could begin on the exhibition hall in about a year, said Pat Steel, the county's budget director.

The Kingdome wouldn't be torn down until a new stadium is ready for the Mariners, mid-1999 or early 2000. The Seahawks plan to play the 1997, '98, and '99 seasons in the Dome, and the following two seasons in Husky Stadium. The earliest a new stadium would be ready is in 2002.

However, the county and Football Northwest still face negotiations over a number of fine points. For example, the county would like to be compensated for loss of parking-lot revenue during construction.


. Referendum 48 . . The score so far .

. State Yes No .

715,073 693,413 .

50.8% 49.2% .

. King Co. 260,556 200,982 .

56.5% 43.5% .

. Seattle 77,450 76,590 .

50.3% 49.7% .

. More than 75,000 ballots are yet to be counted statewide.