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As debate rages about tax revenue for Safeco Field, what about money from naming rights?

General view of Safeco Field during the opening day game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics on April 2, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the A's 4-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — We call it Safeco Field, or "The Safe."

Safeco Insurance paid $40 million over 20 years to worm its name into our daily conversation, and the next naming-rights buyer - after that deal expires at the end of 2018 - might pay much more.

"It's very uncertain what the revenue stream is they're going to get but it could be substantial, yes," sports industry expert Dan Barrett told the King County Council on Wednesday.

Some councilmembers asked representatives of the public facilities district that owns the baseball stadium whether the money from naming rights could be used to pay for upgrades.

"Is the public able to benefit from any naming rights?" asked Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

The question comes as some councilmembers look for other ways to pay for what the Mariners call "necessary capital needs," like paint and new wheels for the retractable roof.

Kohl-Welles first backed executive Dow Constantine's proposal to spend about $180 million of hotel tax revenue over 25 years on Safeco Field.

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After realizing more of that tax money could legally go to affordable housing instead, Kohl-Welles now proposes reducing the stadium subsidy to $25 million.

On Wednesday, Mariners general counsel Fred Rivera said the ball club already plans to spend at least $615 million on the stadium over the length of the proposed 25-year lease.

"The way the club funds that is through its revenue streams, and one of those revenue streams is naming rights," Rivera said.

The public facilities district that negotiated a 25-year proposed lease with the Mariners says it didn't ask for a share of naming rights because it's unclear how much money the team will actually get, and it wanted a more certain source of money.

The Mariners say they can't sell naming rights now anyway without the new lease, which the team has not yet signed, as it hopes for hotel tax revenue from the council.

The council considers the matter again next week.

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