Sunday, October 24, 2021

Memorial Stadium Revamp; Here We Go Again

There is a story at KING 5 News announcing that Mayor Jenny Durkan and Superintendent Brent Jones have signed an letter of intent to move ahead on revamping Memorial Stadium. And, this would be tied to the passage of BTA V next February 2022. It would also be tied to a possible school on top of where the Battery Street tunnel was (and that's whole other post). KING 5 gets the amount on BTA V wrong - the $66.55M is just for renovating Memorial Stadium; the overall ask for the entire levy is $765M.

Yet another issue is the revamping of Seattle Center and the future of The Center School. The City has said the planning would include The Center School but with a renovation may come more leasing costs to the district.

So we have two lame duck leaders making a huge decision that affects a key area of the city. 

I'll pause here to say this one thing in four words - Queen Anne High School. The high school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and was an official Seattle landmark.

The district closed that school in 1981 and decided they to lease the land. The high school, which had been turned into residential apartments by Lorig Associates, went condo in 2005. From The Seattle Times:

According to the lease agreement, once the building was converted to condos, the district was to give up its ownership of the building and land and sign over individual deeds to the new condo owners.

The district tried to encourage Lorig’s makeover by keeping its rental share minimal. But the district apparently didn’t realize just how minimal until about five years ago. That’s when an omission in the original lease document was discovered. Rents were intended to increase incrementally each year. But the way the document was written, the district’s share of the rents reverted to the $52 per-unit flat rate for the 10 years that began in 1997.

So the district had already been feeling the loss of rental dollars from that deal with Lorig.  

The Queen Anne gym was a different sale from Queen Anne High School. The gym fetched $7.5M in 2008. What did the actual school fetch? From the Seattle Times:

The 139 condos — some with expansive city views — are expected to fetch upward of $40 million in today’s red-hot real-estate market.

The district’s cut?

Just 12 percent, about $4.8 million. That’s less than the value of the land, which the King County Assessor’s Office estimates is worth $7.5 million.

Yes, the district got more for the gym than the entire school building.  

Though the district plans to use the money to pay off loans and finance construction, many now rue that lease clause and the impending sale.

“We can’t stop it, we can’t prevent it, we don’t have any other course of action,” said School Board member Dick Lilly, whose district includes Queen Anne. “It’s easy to criticize in hindsight. But you have to say someone made a really bad deal 20 or 25 years ago.”

Armed with that kind of institutional knowledge, the district should tread lightly with any entity, public or private in terms of what happens to Memorial Stadium.

As well, I'll say what I did in 2008 - the citizens of Seattle are not the district's first priority - the students of SPS and their families are. 

The district's 4A schools - Ballard, Franklin, Garfield and Roosevelt - all use the stadium for their home football games as well as soccer games. As well, those high schools have their graduations there.

If the district chooses some kind of land swap with the City, the district should NOT, in ANY way lose current revenue. For example, the district makes about $1M a year from the parking lot. If the City took a couple of acres to create an underground parking lot, the district has to continue making money from it. (Underground parking would serve several purposes, not the least of which is to take an ugly parking lot away.) 

To note from a previous post here in 2008:

Seattle School District owns, outright, Memorial Stadium and the 9 prime acres of real estate it sits on. (They hold this right ONLY if they use the stadium for public education use.) The estimated value of just the land is about $50M. Memorial Stadium was dedicated in 1947, built in honor of high school graduates from Seattle who died in World War II. A memorial wall was also built listing the names of the dead.

The Stadium is dedicated to those 700 Seattle high school students who went away to fight in WWII and did not come back. Some of their bodies were never found so that Memorial wall means a lot to their families. Moving away from the stadium really defeats the purpose.

I appreciate that the Stadium is in the middle of Seattle Center but it existed in that spot long before Seattle Center came into being.

From the previous plan:

As part of the deal, the district would retain ownership of the Memorial Stadium parking-lot property, which it would lease to the city for 60 years for somewhere between $2 million and $3 million a year — an amount officials say is designed to reimburse the district for lost parking fees and part of the value of the stadium.

And after 60 years, the district gets nothing? 

"As part of a 20-year plan for Seattle Center approved last year, the city proposed replacing the stadium with a two-level underground parking and a transit hub, capped by a "great lawn" and a smaller facility that, with the use of removable seats, could be used as a stadium for 5,000 people, or an amphitheater for up to 12,000. It would be built on what is now Memorial Stadium's parking lot."

The school district would have priority use of the new stadium/amphitheater for athletic events from the Friday before Labor Day to seven days before Memorial Day, and for graduations in June.

Under NO circumstances should there be ANY kind of leeway over the scheduling where the City could bump an official district use. 

Post from 2008

 Post from 2009.

Post from 2017

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