A plan to turn deteriorating Albi Stadium into a nationally known youth sports complex is expected to get legs today.
The Spokane City Council is scheduled to call for bids on an estimated $1.9 million stadium upgrade featuring new artificial turf and a wider playing surface for soccer.
Spokane sports mogul Bobby Brett has pledged the first $100,000 for the project. The city and school districts have committed $400,000 each, while a bond will cover the remainder.
If the council comes through with the project, Brett has vowed to seek private foundation money and corporate sponsors to develop the stadium’s 90-acre grounds.
Ultimately, he envisions an indoor soccer field and ice rink as well as softball fields and possibly a youth golf course.
Albi is a “wonderful physical facility in need of tender loving care,” said Brett, owner of the Spokane Chiefs, Indians and Shadow - minor-league hockey, baseball and soccer clubs.
The stadium opened in 1950 for football and motor sports. In 1962, it was expanded to nearly 35,000 seats to accommodate the Washington State University football team.
But the Cougars eventually enlarged their own stadium, and Albi’s use dropped to only 27 days last year, primarily for Greater Spokane League high school football double-headers.
Last season, doctors began reporting more knee and shoulder injuries as a result of the deteriorating turf, said Assistant City Manager Bill Pupo.
Regardless of what the city does to upgrade Albi Stadium, it must buy new turf for an estimated $800,000, Pupo said. The current turf is a 10-year-old victim of weather extremes.
The city also spends $30,000 to $50,000 a year maintaining the stadium, located in north Spokane at 4918 W. Everett.
Turning Albi into a soccer venue could triple its use and benefit taxpayers, supporters say.
“If we can increase the usage of Albi by increasing the number of event days or break even or make money, we’ve created probably the best facility west of the Mississippi for youth and collegiate activities,” Pupo said.
The plan is to raise the field 7 feet, widen it by removing up to 7,000 seats and flatten it to accommodate soccer by removing the 18-inch crown in the middle.
A new drainage system would be installed, filtering water from the top down through porous asphalt instead of off the field’s sides.
City Councilman Jeff Colliton, who is shep-herding the project for the city, said that because of increased injuries among high school football players, the city is obligated to replace the turf.
Colliton dreams of Albi one day being host to a National Football League exhibition game.
But a representative of the Spokane Metro Softball Association is not jumping on the Albi bandwagon.
Michael Dalsanders, the group’s fund-raiser, concedes the project is a done deal but wants the council to examine whether Brett is getting another great deal at the expense of taxpayers.
Dalsanders criticizes Brett’s arrangement with the county for Seafirst Stadium, home of the Indians baseball club.
While Brett has poured his own money into saving the county stadium from the wrecking ball, he pays little rent and also benefits from county tax revenues.
Last year, the county spent $161,000 in rental car tax revenues for ballpark maintenance.
“We are concerned about the continual use of public funds to support a private enterprise,” Dalsanders said.
The non-profit Metro Softball Association is building a $2.3 million six-diamond softball complex on land leased from the city for $1 a year.
But Dalsanders said the 33-acre site at Holland Road and Dakota Street was given to the city with the understanding it be used for public athletics.
“We would like to have the same opportunity for financial assistance from the city that the Brett group is being allowed,” said Dalsanders, adding that private money is paying for his project.
, DataTimes MEMO: Meeting The council meets tonight at 6:30 in City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.