Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sports Stadium and Arena Funding, User Pays (and I don't mean the fans)

One year ago there was a King5/SurveyUSA poll that asked, "If an arena could be built for a new NBA team without using any taxpayer dollars, would you support? or oppose? building an arena?".

This past week two lawmakers, Mark Hope (R-Lake Stevens) and David Frockt (D-Seattle), have proposed revisiting a "Jock Tax" this summer, after the legislative session ends.

Lets's look at the survey, then see if the Jock Tax fits in the survey results.

Do you want a professional NBA basketball team in Seattle? Do you want Seattle to NOT have a professional basketball team? Or do you not care one way or the other?

Want team 41 percent

No team 18 percent

Don’t care 42 percent
Pie Chart here
If an arena could be built for a new NBA team without using any taxpayer dollars, would you support? or oppose? building an arena?

Support 72 percent

Oppose 20 percent

Not sure 18 percent
pie chart here
If an NBA team did come to Seattle, how likely would you be to go to a game? Very likely? Somewhat likely? Not very likely? Or not at all likely?

Very likely 19

Somewhat likely 22

Not very likely 26

Not at all likely 31

Not sure 1
pie chart here
How likely would you be to go to a game if an NBA team played in the Bellevue area instead of in Seattle?

Very likely 13 percent

Somewhat likely 16 percent

Not very likely 28 percent

Not at all likely 42 percent

Not sure 1 percent
pie chart here

This poll was reported on in a Publicola story last year.

Here are some assumptions and a few questions worth asking.
There is a group of people that hate sports, all sports questions are answered "NO" (see question 2).
There is a group of people that love sports, all questions are answered "YES".

A supermajority support a free arena (again, question 2). The other questions in the survey center on NBA teams, and see that those answers are less than a supermajority. That may be because not everybody is an NBA fan, I'll call them hockey fans, or free facility fans.

Watching the perpetual struggle of 4Culture, and sports fans, struggle to get control of Tourism Taxes to fund Tourism related infrastructure is frustrating. The majority of Washington State Legislature is less than interested in helping. It will take a major effort for 4Culture to get an existing tax that is not part of the general fund partially dedicated to arts.

Imagine trying to raise a new tax for sports facilities... Looks impossible.
Imagine limiting that tax to tourists (people not living in Washington)... Next to impossible.
Imagine limiting the tax to just millionaires that directly benefit from the existence of the facility... I think we are heading into the "free arena" zone.

I think you could retain the tax advantage of athletes that live here by exempting them from this B&O tax because they pay residency taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, real estate and property taxes.
I think you could retain the taxes from those that would buy a cheap condo here, but do not qualify for state residency.

I think this is the path of least resistance, in fact, I think there would be a small portion of sports haters that could support the taxing of athletes just because they dislike them that much.

It's worth pursuing.
I think the B&O tax on athletes should be based on a multiple of Poverty.

Numbers change with location and the economy, but lets pick a number for conversation sake. In 2007, a couple with an infant living in Bellevue would need to make (roughly) $31,000 a year to be self sustaining.
What if an out-of-state athlete was charged a B&O tax if they made $620,000 or more a year? Too low?
How about $960,000 a year?
The WNBA TEAM salary cap in 2010 was $775,000. The entire Storm team wouldn't make enough to qualify for that tax. The Seattle Sounders have had one player that could qualify, barely.
The "average" salary in the NBA this season is $5.765 million

Whenever is see arena funding debates revolving around ticket taxes, parking taxes, fan taxes, I like to come back to the NBA average salary and ask, why not them?

I am not seeing a private arena being built, that looks just as impossible. Residents are not paying for this.
Figure it out.