Cities near Seattle may lose tax revenue if arena gets built

Jul 13, 2012

A new professional basketball and hockey arena in Seattle could steal tax dollars from neighboring communities. That’s according to the analysis of University of Washington geography professor Bill Beyers, who has spent a lot of time studying the economic impact of professional sports.

Beyers has done previous analyses about the Mariners and Seahawks, as well as KeyArena.  As part of an expert panel, Beyers presented his initial thoughts on the proposed NBA and NHL arena to the King County Council.

He says one thing that needs to be looked at more closely is how it would shift tax dollars within the region. He gives an example of someone in Tacoma opting to go to a basketball game in Seattle instead of buying a shirt at the Tacoma mall.

"From a tax revenue standpoint, the shirt purchased in Tacoma would have generated some sales tax revenue for the city of Tacoma," Beyers said. "That goes away and instead the spending at the arena is going to generate some sales tax revenue for the city of Seattle."

Beyers says he doesn’t know how much money would get shifted. He’d have to do a deeper analysis. It’s probably not a lot because he says the arena overall won’t have a big economic impact. But he says it’s still something people all across the region should think about.

"You could argue that what I’m saying is some kind of nitpicking, but you know, it’s real, even if it’s not big," Beyers said.

Beyers says that’s why any kind of economic analysis of the proposed arena needs to be done regionally instead of just for Seattle. He says Seattle is the clear winner.