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Mariners opening day ceremonies in April 2017 at Safeco Field. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Mariners opening day ceremonies in April 2017 at Safeco Field. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
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The Mariners and the Public Facilities District agreed in May on terms for a 25-year extension to the team’s lease at the stadium. But the deal is contingent on the county council a proposal to send $180 million in hotel-motel tax revenue toward capital projects at Safeco.Hunter Navy Matte Tall' Rain Boots/Booties,

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Mike Rosenberg
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Seattle Times real estate reporter

A divided King County Council on Monday questioned the Mariners over a plan to give $180 million in public funds toward fixes at Safeco Field, kicking off a debate over whether the money could instead be used on housing.Sporto Black Winder Waterproof Cold Weather W Disp Boots/Booties,

The Mariners and the Public Facilities District that oversees the ballpark had agreed in May on terms for a potential 25-year extension to the team’s lease at the stadium, which expires at the end of this year. But the deal is contingent on the county council approving Executive Dow Constantine’s proposal to send $180 million in hotel and motel tax revenue toward capital projects at Safeco.

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The council had its first opportunity to publicly vet the plan Monday ahead of a committee vote that could happen as soon as Aug. 29 — and a full council vote in September.

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Sam Edelman Tan Louie Western Boots/Booties,The council framed the issue largely as a choice between giving the money toward the stadium or using it to build affordable housing. Under state law, 75 percent of the lodging tax revenues in question will go toward housing and the arts — split evenly between the two categories — and the remaining 25 percent can go toward promoting tourism, such as the Mariners’ ballpark, or something else such as housing.

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he meeting featured an hour and a half of comments from an overflow crowd that exceeded 50 people, mostly housing advocates and others opposing the stadium financing plan. They carried signs reading “homes over home runs.”

But the most heated part of the meeting came when council member Dave Upthegrove, who is leading the charge against the stadium financing, got a chance to question Mariners executive Fred Rivera.

Upthegrove noted the value of the Mariners, now estimated at $1.45 billion by Forbes, has grown by $1 billion in the past seven years.Jimmy Choo Burgundy Leather Ankle Boots/Booties,

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Frye Black Sunny Pleated Tall Boots/Booties,“Given that, why couldn’t (the Mariners) fund these upgrades rather than drain public resources?” Upthegrove said to uproarious applause from the crowd, some of whom noted the team’s majority owner, John Stanton, has a net worth valued over $1 billion.

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He also pointed to the team’s positive impact on the local economy and tax base. And he implied the club’s revenues could take a hit in future years as part of the general concern in baseball that fewer fans are attending games.Manolo Blahnik Black 'bb' Leather - Pumps,

The Mariners say the $180 million in public funding would go toward necessary fixes to the stadium’s roof, electrical system and other nuts and bolts of the park. The team also plans to fund some $180 million worth of upgrades, including new clubs, concessions and kids areas.Rag & Bone Tan Sullivan Suede Ankle Boots/Booties,

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Councilman Rob Dembowski also seemed skeptical of the Mariners funding plan and asked pointed questions at the meeting.

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But at least two council members, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Pete von Reichbauer, appeared supportive of the plan and sympathetic to the Mariners.La Canadienne Black Patent Rubina Boots/Booties,

Kohl-Welles noted the need for more housing but also lauded the stadium as an important asset to fund.

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“For me it doesn’t have to be an either/or, mutually exclusive situation (to fund Safeco vs. housing),” she said.

Von Reichbauer noted that local officials had to battle to make sure the Mariners didn’t move away before Safeco Field was built and added that he didn’t want another “nose-to-nose battle.” He said he wanted to “publicly thank the Seattle Mariners for providing” what he said was one of the the last family friendly destinations in the region and brought up the MLB attendance decline multiple times.Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent Gray Charcoal Boots/Booties,

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“Jeffrey Campbell White and Black The Flink Boots/Booties,This is still a financial challenge for everyone across the board,” he said.

Tory Burch Tan/Beige Stafford Suede Boots/Booties,Council President Joe McDermott, along with von Reichbauer and Kohl-Welles, had previously co-sponsored the general resolution on spending the lodging tax funds — the plan that includes the ballpark funding. Other council members in attendance asked mostly neutral questions at Monday’s meeting.

The Mariners have said if the county rejects the funding, it would sign a short-term lease to stay at Safeco for up to five years, then go back to the drawing board to negotiate a long-term lease.

The $517 million ballpark, which opened in 1999, was funded largely by taxpayers.Penny Loves Kenny Rose Gold Boots/Booties,

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Mike Rosenberg: 206-464-2266 or mrosenberg@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @ByRosenberg.
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