Is historic aviation center our golden ticket or our Spruce Goose?

A historic aviation center at Paine Field is precisely the jewel Snohomish County needs for a thriving tourism industry. Or it’s a crazy boondoggle.

Each side of the debate seems convinced that it’s right.

Lots of elected leaders support aircraft collector John Sessions’ idea for a campus of museums and renovation centers on the west side of Paine Field. He estimates the center would attract 150,000 tourists every year. Then a review submitted by the airport director threw cold water on the idea, saying the number of tourists is hard to forecast. It advocated the more practical — but decidedly less sexy — idea of leasing out the land for jet hangars.

On the one hand, vintage airplanes are really cool. Paul Allen collects them like he hordes Nirvana memorabilia and Star Wars action figures. We even have Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection and the Historic Flight Foundation right there at Paine Field.

On the other hand, we already have those great attractions. At some point, with apologies to grandpas everywhere, most of us have seen enough old warbirds.

In our latest poll at, we asked what you think of the county setting aside land for the project. Forty-six percent said it sounds good.

On the flip side, 28 percent favored leaving the land as it is, and 26 percent said the county should rent out the space instead. That adds up to a narrow majority who oppose the idea of a vintage airplane mecca, and overall leaves us firmly undecided.

So do we build something new, find an alternative, or leave everything the way it is?

This debate sounds awfully familiar. Didn’t we just have those same three options for the county courthouse? And didn’t we come up with a cost-effective solution that works best for everyone?

Oh, that’s right. We lit a bunch of money on fire. That’s always an alternative.

— Doug Parry, @parryracer

For our next poll, we’d like to know what you think about vaping in public places.

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