About Seattle Schools' Memorial Stadium

There appears to be a disconnect between what the district is saying to the City about Memorial Stadium and what they are telling voters (likely to get them to vote for the BTA V levy).

I don't think the district is being entirely honest and upfront about the situation to voters. 

I thought of this as I listened to the BTA V forum sponsored by Horizon House, a senior housing group. At that forum, I asked about Memorial Stadium and JoLynn Berge, head of Budget, said that the Stadium is "just for us." As she was speaking for the district, I'm pretty sure she meant the district. 

At the district website on BTA V, here's what the district says:

Memorial Stadium Repair and Renovation.      $66,537,000

Plus under Service School & Administrative Building Systems Repair & Replacement Projects there is:

Memorial Stadium Plumbing.                             $1,350,041

Plus under Athletic Fields & Field Exterior Lights & Equipment there is:

Memorial Stadium (Field).                                  $2,109,533

Which all totals up to                                    $70,063,111.00

Now $70M sounds like a lot of money but for a renovation, it's not much. To note, BTA has NEVER been for "renovations" but rather maintenance and repair. I think Capital staff probably said something like, "Well, just say 'repair' and we can then also use 'renovation'." 

I know there is NO way that stadium is getting a real renovation - if that were true, they'd be tearing it down. However, if you can replace the stands, repair the bathrooms (whose terrible condition is legendary) and put down a new field, you will have really spruced up the joint. 

Except here's what it says in the Letter of Intent (LOI) that Mayor Jenny Durkan and Superintendent Brent Jones signed on October 1, 2021. (bold mine)

Given the age and condition of Memorial Stadium today, it is the goal of the Parties that funding for a replacement of the stadium be included in the 2022 BTA V levy and approved by voters. If it is included in and approved as part of the Levy the Parties agree to negotiate Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) consistent with the terms of this LOI that would provide the framework for more detailed agreements to advance new facilities at both sites. Key details as to the scope, cost and financing, and shared use of a new Memorial Stadium facility would be included in those MOUs.

This LOI shall not be binding on either party, nor shall it form the basis for any liability or claim for reimbursement of any costs.

As well on the Principles page of the LOI, it states, "City will have a defined role with SPS for input on planning and design of the new facility" (meaning Memorial Stadium).  It also says something about "a lease option" and that "the City will provide a plan for securing funding needed to complete the 'enhanced' program for the stadium project beyond SPS' basic program requirements."

In fact, the Principles section goes on to state:

If the City exercises its lease option, the City will be responsible for operating and maintenance costs once the new stadium is built.

My reading of that is that: 

1)The district puts money for the renovation of Memorial Stadium into BTA V AND gets the levy passed
2) Then, the City and the district will create MOUs for both Memorial Stadium AND "development of an elementary school and park space on surplus City property in Belltown. "

The Principles say that for the district to get a long-term lease for the Battery Street Tunnel site that BTA V has to pass

The Principles section also says:

For the purpose of the BTA V levy, SPS will develop a basic program for the stadium replacement, which addresses SPS’s core facility needs and allows for SPS to advance the project.

What's interesting to me is that there is already a "preliminary concept" for "Battery Street K-8 School And Park" from Bassetti Architects from 2019. I'll have to ask to see this plan.

Now if this deal with the City falls through, then the district can spend that $70M to try to shore up the stadium. But I hope that Mayor Bruce Harrell will see the value of getting an overhaul of the stadium done to better serve ALL of Seattle. 


Anonymous said…
Maybe someone needs to point out the looming recession and if its really prudent to spend money on that outdated facility? How about another Chihuly con job?

McCleary was supposed to fully fund schools, so why are the levies going way up?

Greenlake parent
Anonymous said…
Because all McCleary went to was teacher raises so all the rest still has to be funded somehow.

Levy Tired
KeepA Watch said…
The district wants hundreds of millions of dollars via levy. Yet, tonight, Chandra Hampson is trying to kill Option schools- this year- via Transition Plan.

Families really need to keep an eye on this issue.

Hampson wants to kill north end language schools, as well.
Anonymous said…
Because the Supreme Court let the legislature get away with not actually fully funding schools. The legislature wrote a definition of basic education that is absurdly narrow and does not actually cover the cost of providing an education to children in this state. The Supreme Court said that was cool, even though the result was that some districts lost money and barely any district received enough funds.

Greenwood parent
Patrick said…
Because "fully" is left to the legislature to define.
McClery Man said…
The legislature gets to define “basic education.” Once they have done that (and the Supreme Court isn’t going to substitute is own definition of “basic education”) they have to fund it.

The Supreme Court said that the legislature defined it and funded what they defined.
Anonymous said…
In 2009, state Legislature defined “basic education ” to include all day kindergarten and class size limited to 17 in K-3. By 2019, Legislature has added about $23 billion since the SC ruled. In 2018, SC said state met its obligation with McCleary.

How each school district spent its money is another matter. Some went to much needed renovations and build new schools. And yes, a big portion of the McCleary money went to raise staff salary.

Surprisingly, a good source (not our big local news outlets) explained the tempest here:


-deep sigh

Anonymous said…
I don't understand why they think they can afford a stadium when they don't have any curriculum for social studies/history or middle school ELA. They're still making PTAs pay for their own counselors and recess monitors and then bullying them about how inequitable it is for donations to pay for those.

Shocked Taxpayer
Anonymous said…
Shocked Taxpayer, what do you mean they don't have any curriculum for those areas? Certainly not what I've been seeing in the schools.

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