Longshoremen claim arena threatens port jobs

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by Sportspress Northwest Staff

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on June 1, 2012 at 7:57 AM

Updated Saturday, Jun 2 at 9:30 AM

Debate about the site of a proposed arena in SoDo ratcheted up Thursday with a letter from the longshoremen's union local that claimed thousands of jobs are at risk with the additional congestion from more sports events and a surrounding entertainment district.

The ILWU Arena Letter 5-31 from Cameron Williams, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 to the city and county councils, states, "We can build an arena anywhere, but we can't rebuild a world-class, deep water port terminal anywhere."

Williams wrote that while the union is in favor of the return of the NBA, up to 4,000 jobs are threatened by further slowing freight movement that may cause terminal operators to end their leases at the Port of Seattle. He said operators' "mere perception of the risk of continued disruption of freight movement is enough for reconsideration of (the location of Terminal 30 and 46) operations."

Choices include ports from Prince Rupert, B.C., all the way to the Panama Canal, which will be expanded by 2015 to allow larger ships to transport more goods to the East Coast and Europe, bypassing Puget Sound.

The Port of Tacoma is also a competitor. It recently won leases from freight services using the Port of Seattle that will amount to a 20 percent loss of business.

For the first time publicly, an opponent of the location criticized developer Chris Hansen's creation of an entertainment district around the arena site, which is claimed to threaten the area's industrial character.

"If this development of an arena is approved, more projects will come on line and city government will be pressured to rezone industrial SoDo for entertainment and retail development," the letter stated.  "This will mean the eventual eroding of our maritime and industrial economic base. We do not agree that this eroding of these industrial lands and the jobs associated with it are inevitable; whether or not this happens is a matter of choice."

The letter also criticized the failure of the city to deliver on infrastructure projects around the existing stadiums, and the plan's use of revenues from "taxable entertainment venues" to fund its creation.

The letter says the project is not risk free nor a "zero cost" to taxpayers, and would be a net loss of living wage jobs in Seattle.

The city council began hearings Thursday on the project and the county hearings will begin Wednesday. The memorandum of understanding signed by the three parties -- city, county and Hansen's investor group, ArenaCo -- is subject to approval by a majority of both councils.

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