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Albi needs work, but there’s time

When Herb Rotchford took over last fall as Greater Spokane League secretary, near the top of his list of things to do was to take a hard look at the functionality of Albi Stadium.

Most can agree that Albi Stadium needs a major overhaul. It’s outlived its purpose as originally constructed.

The Spokane School District, in conjunction with the City of Spokane and Mead School District, has commissioned a study to look at the long-term feasibility of the stadium that opened in 1950. Some time later next month a list of options regarding what can be done to upgrade Albi and keep it functioning well into the 21st century, put together by a local architectural firm, will be presented to the school districts and city.

Then the dialogue will begin about what option is the best to present to the public. At some point down the road the Spokane School District will ask patrons to fund the changes through a bond.

Rotchford urged caution.

“Things are still very, very preliminary,” he said.

In fact, Rotchford wouldn’t go into too many specifics that have been discussed at this point only to say that he hopes Albi, in some form, continues to be a viable venue for athletic events for years to come.

One option that has been recommended by people I’ve talked to is making Albi more cozy, eliminating about 22,000 of the current 28,000 seats. That would mean leveling most of the upper seating.

That would also mean that such events as the Washington State University’s spring football game, scheduled for Saturday, might not be played at Albi. The biggest crowd (more than 10,000) last fall attended the Mead/Mt. Spokane football game.

Other things that must be addressed are locker rooms, lights and the press box. Eliminating the bulk of the seating would require a new press box.

Another suggestion that’s been mentioned by others is bulldozing Albi and building a new 6,000 seat stadium on adjacent property.

And another idea is to abandon Albi altogether and play football games at the schools. The fields at Shadle Park and Ferris are wired for lights. But what would the Spokane School District do for Rogers, North Central and Lewis and Clark? Would neighborhoods around those schools even allow stadiums and lights?

And what about Mead and Mt. Spokane? It’s been rumored for the last couple of years that the Mead School District might consider building a stadium to be used by both schools.

The committee must find an option that best suits the seven schools that use Albi for football and soccer and keep in mind the stadium is used for other events.

Rotchford is to be applauded for being proactive here. There’s plenty of time to come up with a plan. He said the Field Turf that was installed in 2006 has six more years of life.

The clock is ticking, but there’s plenty of time to come up with the most cost-effective solution.

Revenues up

The Greater Spokane League is a revenue-sharing conference. Football and basketball games bring in the most revenue.

From that standpoint, it’s been a good year in the GSL, Rotchford said.

Each school was reimbursed $23,000 after fall sports and each received $2,000 after winter sports.

The revenue comes from a combination of gate receipts and sports pass sales, Rotchford said.

“I’m encouraged by those numbers,” Rotchford said.