Safeco Field cost
To clarify something: we often refer to Safeco as being a $330-350m stadium financed by tax dollars. This is a little unfair to the team, but entirely fair in another sense.
The cost of the stadium was supposed to be in that range, with the M’s contribution slated to be about $40m, which they immediately recouped by selling the naming rights to Safeco Insurance.
However, the cost overruns, which the team was respoinsible for in the rush to build it, and which they had promised to pay for, were not paid for by the public. Though not for lack of trying, as the M’s attempted to get the public to pay for it (because the tax was collecting more revenue than anticipated, which is like going to lunch with someone and refusing to split the bill because they have more money then you). The final cost of the stadium was about $520m, and I’ve read the team ended up covering about $130m of the overruns (meaning the public paid $390m for the stadium). The team then went and tried to pursue legal action against everyone they’d hired to build the stadium. I don’t know if they recovered any of that money or not — I can’t remember reading anything about any settlements, but that’s the kind of detailed, no-story-here event that I imagine was probably on page 8 of the business section, if it ran at all.
If that’s the case, the Mariners ended up paying about a quarter of the cost of the new stadium out of pocket, which would make them one of the more generous contributors in the last stadium boom. But some points to consider:
– the overruns were entirely the fault of the team’s desire to open mid-season 1999, a move that made them about $75m in additional revenues (I could do a detailed breakdown of my guess there, but that’s probably in the ballpark — ha!) for that year
– they did try and go back on their promise to pay and made all kinds of dire predictions about what would happen if they were forced to pay their lunch tab
In that sense, I’m reluctant to credit them for this.
However, assume for moment that the team’s crack legal team went out into the wild to go hunt for settlement money and they came back with nothing. There would be a massive debt on the books the team would have to pay down as a result of their own actions. When they pay that off, it makes their profits look much smaller, even as their revenues may be spectacularly high. Even for a highly profitable team like the M’s, this means they can retire that debt quickly over the last couple of successful years, making it easy to make the profits of those boom years go away.
This is important to you because while the team’s lease with the PFD is laughably bad (I’d love to rent a place to live under the terms of this deal) it does contain limited profit-sharing. The team is supposed to share a portion of the money they make once they’ve paid off debt they supposedly (but did not actually) accumulated during the 1989-1999 years. The Mariners, if they never recovered any of the cost of the overruns, have $126m in postponement of the start of revenue sharing, of putting money back in the public coffers. As a result of thier own incompetence in project planning.
That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of postponement.
Not that has anything to do with present events. It just occurred to me.