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Tacoma Dome struggles with financial, green issues

A proposed naming-rights deal was turned down by Tacoma Power, but relief may be on the way on the energy-consumption front.

An attempt to address two big issues facing the Tacoma Dome — budget deficits and inefficient energy consumption — fell through when Tacoma Power turned down a naming-rights offer from the city worth some $1.25 million over five years. Tacoma Power is a regulated utility, and officials felt it was a poor use of the firm's limited marketing budget.

But their counterproposal is a pretty good one: working with the Dome on installing a more energy-efficient lighting system and loaning money to the city for installation — at zero percent interest.

The 26-year-old Tacoma Dome is certainly an institution in the Washington city, but it sits in the nether area between arena and stadium. It can seat up to 23,000 for larger events (like soccer or football games) but be scaled back to 5,000 or so for smaller events. But there's little demand for 23,000-seat events, and other limitations, such as the lack of any sports tenants (the Tacoma Sabercats last played there in 2002) lead to some financial issues. Facility management claims to hold 300 events in Tacoma Dome annually, but they're not generating enough money to pay all the bills.

Still, some level of relief is on the way if Tacoma Power's proposal is accepted. The Tacoma Dome lighting system hasn't changed since the facility opened, which leads to some pretty hefty utility bills these days. Tacoma Power is proposing a $442,890 upgrade to the lighting system. The city wouldn't actually pay that much: Tacoma Power would instantly rebate $185,808 in incentives and commit to $36,000 in signage advertising. Tacoma Power would also loan the city the remaining $221,082 in an interest-free loan; the monthly savings in utility bills ($5,430) would be more than enough to cover loan payments and return a small amount ($1,745) monthly to the city. The deal would also keep the city option to sell naming rights.

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