Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Proximity and Voting for Professional Sporting Stadiums: The Pattern of Support for the Seahawk Stadium Referendum

Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Proximity and Voting for Professional Sporting Stadiums: The Pattern of Support for the Seahawk Stadium Referendum

Article excerpt

Dear fellow Washingtonians:

I've said from the start I wouldn't go forward with purchasing the Seahawks and building a new stadium and exhibition center without your approval. Knowing a "Yes" vote will be an act of trust. I'd like to share my commitments to this public/private partnership ... Should we move forward, the new stadium and exhibition center will be a valuable asset - bringing our communities together and benefiting the state for decades to come.

--Paul Allen (Secretary of the State of Washington 1997, 4).

I. INTRODUCTION

Referendum voting outcomes have proven informative about economic behavior in many areas of government spending. Primarily, analysis has been in education, health care, and nuclear power. Here, we examine another large-scale public endeavor. Through estimation of a precinct-level model of yes votes, we examine the results of a referendum vote in the State of Washington to subsidize the building of what is now known as CenturyLink Field (previously Qwest Field) in Seattle, WA, USA.

We coniine this analysis to just the county where nearly all of the action occurred, the county that would eventually hold the new facility. Direct examination of the voting results shows that the highest level of support occurred in and around King County. Looking at this one county in detail informs us in ways that looking at the same model across counties cannot. For example, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that voters in close proximity to the site were much more likely to vote against the referendum, while those in precincts within short driving distance (typically wealthier and more populous precincts) were much more likely to vote in favor. (1)

Results of an empirical precinct-level voting model are entirely consistent with the inspection results--proximity and population really do rule. However, while in general support for a stadium tends to increase with proximity to a stadium (Coates and Humphreys 2006; Dehring, Depken, and Ward 2008) from an individual voter's perspective, publicly subsidized stadiums have both positive and negative aspects. As a result, the costs of being in close proximity to a stadium can overcome benefits, and that is what we find. Consistent with Ahlfeldt and Maennig (2012), who find that voters nearest to the proposed soccer stadium in Munich were more likely to vote against the referendum, we find that voting support for CenturyLink Field is actually smallest in close proximity to the proposed facility. However, a novel result is that voting support for the referendum was highest at 10-30 miles driving distance from the stadium and beyond that distance, as time costs increase, voting support falls off.

Further, consistent with previous works at the city-level and county-level, the odds of a yes vote were higher in higher-income precincts and in precincts with higher proportions of minority voters. Surprisingly, we find little effect of the proportion of renters relative to homeowners, which could be related to the "homevoter" hypothesis (Dehring, Depken, and Ward 2008; Fischel 2005). Finally, the odds of a yes vote increased in older demographic precincts but decreased in precincts with higher proportions of white-collar workers.

The paper proceeds as follows. In Section II, we give the background on the election. The history of the precinct-level model of the odds of a yes vote along with a data description is in Section III. The results are in Section IV and conclusions round out the paper in Section V.

II. BACKGROUND

Referendum 48 was decided in a statewide special election on June 17, 1997. The specific details of the stadium finance agreement can be found in the 28-page Official Washington Voter's Pamphlet (Secretary of the State of Washington 1997). Overall, the ballot stated that the stadium would cost approximately $425 million with a 76-24 public-private split ($323 million public money). …

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