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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive sends legislation to County Council on arts, culture, and tourism promotion

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine will transmit a motion to the King County Council allocating hotel/motel tax revenues for arts programs, museums, workforce housing, and programs for homeless youth. Lodging taxes would also be allocated to two regional public facilities districts for basic stadium infrastructure.

Story

Since 1967, hotel/motel taxes have funded regional sports stadiums and also, later, arts programs. With the last of the CenturyLink Field debt paid off by 2020, King County will receive approximately $36 million in 2021. As created by state law, the tax has no sunset.

Beginning in 2021, by state statute, King County will transfer 37.5 percent of lodging tax revenue – roughly $13.5 million annually and expected to rise over time – to 4Culture to support art, cultural and heritage facilities, as well as the performing arts.

Also under state law, another 37.5 percent will be directed to the county Department of Community and Human Services to support transit-oriented housing development or services for homeless youth.

King County Executive Dow Constantine proposes allocating the remaining funds beginning in 2021 to programs and facilities that attract visitors to the region, as directed by state statute. This would include a new fund, in coordination with the visitor industry, to bring tourists and business travelers to the region, an allocation to the public facilities districts that own Safeco Field and the ShoWare Center, and other investments as determined by the King County Council.

In 2021, the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, which owns Safeco Field, is expected to receive approximately $4 million of the $36 million total.

The dollars would be part of a Capital Expenditure Fund to maintain the 20 year-old ballpark, such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems, and retractable roof upkeep. The Mariners also contribute to the Capital Expenditure Fund, as does the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District via parking and ticket taxes.

Under the proposed motion, the City of Kent Special Events Center Public Facilities District will receive about $203,000 of lodging tax in 2021 to support capital maintenance of the ShoWare Center sports and events facility in Kent.

Executive Constantine, in consultation with the King County Council, will develop a strategic plan outlining potential investments in arts, heritage, historic preservation and culture throughout King County, across all funding sources. The plan will be forwarded to the Council by the end of 2019.

“I have met with members of the public facilities district, and I believe the terms of the 25 year lease negotiated between the PFD and the Seattle Mariners for Safeco Field are sensible and fair,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“Hotel/motel taxes were established 50 years ago so that visitors would pay to build the Kingdome and bring Major League Baseball and NFL Football to town. As a consequence of this lease, a small portion of those visitor taxes - roughly 12 percent - will go toward upkeep of the nuts and bolts of our iconic ballpark. It will also help maintain the publicly owned ShoWare Center in Kent. About 85 percent of the hotel/motel funds will be directed to other public purposes, with 75 percent supporting affordable housing and the arts.”

If the King County Council adopts the motion, Executive Constantine will transmit a series of ordinances to the Council by the end of the year to enact specific aspects of this proposal.

"This is a significant conversation and opportunity for our region," said King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. "I look forward to making important investments in bringing people to visit our county through sports and culture, and dedicating sustained funding for affordable workforce housing around our ever expanding transit footprint."

 

"Professional sports are part of our successful regional economic development," said King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, co-sponsor of the motion. "The Seattle Mariners provide jobs at every level of the employment spectrum because they attract tourists from Canada and the Pacific Northwestern states. These tourists stay at our hotels, shop at our restaurants, and buy goods while visiting our region.  In addition to one of the best ticket values for family entertainment, the Mariners provide economic stimulus to our economy through the jobs they create."

 

"I have worked on statewide investments for arts, tourism, and housing over the entire course of my career, both in securing these revenue tools in the legislature and in directing their use as a County Councilmember,” said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles.  "I look forward to engaging with the Executive, my colleagues, and my longtime partners in the community on utilizing these new resources."


Frequently Asked Questions

A: Yes, King County’s hotel/motel tax has funded sports and culture in our region since its creation in 1967 to fund the Kingdome. In 1985, the legislature authorized the hotel-motel tax to be used for capital improvements to stadiums. In 1991, the legislature expanded the allowable uses for hotel-motel tax revenue to include, among other things, arts programs.  However, legislators left no doubt as to the continued importance of professional sports stadiums by requiring that 25 percent of the hotel-motel tax revenue be used for “stadium capital improvements.”  

Beginning in 2021, after the bonds used to pay for construction of CenturyLink are paid, King County is obligated by state law to use 37.5 percent of the hotel motel tax revenue for the arts, 37.5 percent for affordable housing and the remaining, 25 percent for the promotion of tourism, which specifically includes professional sporting events.  

A: The Seattle Mariners draw nearly 3 million fans to Safeco Field each year, approximately 55 percent of which are from outside King County. In 2015, King County and the City of Seattle benefited from an estimated $2.4 million in tax revenues from five separates taxes. In 20 years, Safeco Field is expected to generate $46 million to local jurisdictions. 
A: Safeco Field and ShoWare Center are publicly-owned facilities. Public investment is needed to maintain and preserve the structures and protect the original investment of taxpayer dollars in construction and development.
A: The investments made by King County will go towards the Capital Expenditure Fund, or CapEx Fund.  This fund is the PFD and Mariners agreed upon plan and budget for capital investments for the ballpark.  The specifics can be found in the joint Capital Needs Assessment report, commissioned jointly by the PFD and the Mariners, and include items such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, retractable roof repair, elevator and escalator repair, repair restroom fixtures.
A: King County’s partnership reflects the “last dollars in” to maintain the ballpark when combined with the financial contributions of both the Mariners and the PFD.  It represents 12-15 percent of the overall hotel/motel tax revenues, and the ShoWare Center represents about 1 percent.

Relevant links

Motion establishing the allocation of future lodging tax collections


Quotes

I have met with members of the public facilities district, and I believe the terms of the 25 year lease negotiated between the PFD and the Seattle Mariners for Safeco Field are sensible and fair. Hotel/motel taxes were established 50 years ago so that visitors would pay to build the Kingdome and bring Major League Baseball and NFL Football to town. As a consequence of this lease, a small portion of those visitor taxes - roughly 12 percent - will go toward upkeep of the nuts and bolts of our iconic ballpark. It will also help maintain the publicly owned ShoWare Center in Kent. About 85 percent of the hotel/motel funds will be directed to other public purposes, with 75 percent supporting affordable housing and the arts.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

This is a significant conversation and opportunity for our region. I look forward to making important investments in bringing people to visit our county through sports and culture, and dedicating sustained funding for affordable workforce housing around our ever expanding transit footprint.

Joe McDermott, King County Council Chair 

Professional sports are part of our successful regional economic development. The Seattle Mariners provide jobs at every level of the employment spectrum because they attract tourists from Canada and the Pacific Northwestern states.  These tourists stay at our hotels, shop at our restaurants, and buy goods while visiting our region.  In addition to one of the best ticket values for family entertainment, the Mariners provide economic stimulus to our economy through the jobs they create.

Pete von Reichbauer, King County Council

I have worked on statewide investments for arts, tourism, and housing over the entire course of my career, both in securing these revenue tools in the legislature and in directing their use as a County Councilmember. I look forward to engaging with the Executive, my colleagues, and my longtime partners in the community on utilizing these new resources.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Council

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography