September 24, 2012 in City

School district in talks with city to buy Joe Albi Stadium

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Todd Bloom (in dark shirt), 12, shares his order of curly fries with friends at Joe Albi Stadium on Friday. At right is Sarah Sherfey, 12. Joe Albi is the home of many high school football games in the Greater Spokane League in the fall.
(Full-size photo)

Through the years

 From the Spokesman-Review archives: Joe Albi Stadium began as Memorial Stadium. It has hosted the Cougars, the Vandals, the Eagles and, perhaps most famously, Elvis.

 The stadium, however, is best known as the home of Greater Spokane League football and soccer games for the past 60 years.

 The stadium’s namesake was a longtime sports booster. The stadium was named in Joe Albi’s honor in 1962. College teams have chosen Albi to bring in the large Spokane audience to fill more than 25,000 seats.

 After the Spokane Shadow soccer team left and Eastern Washington University built its own field on the Cheney campus, Joe Albi Stadium isn’t the destination it used to be.

• To offer an opinion on the school district’s plan, email Terren Roloff at terrenr@spokaneschools.org.

Spokane Public Schools has an interest in buying Joe Albi Stadium.

Such a plan would be folded into the school district’s 2015 bond proposal requiring voter approval.

The buyer’s interest is twofold: Preserve the tradition of Greater Spokane League football games and modernize the aging stadium.

The city of Spokane owns the stadium, and six years ago the city entertained the idea of selling it to developers.

A resulting uproar scuttled those plans. School officials now say the city may be willing to strike a deal on what has been a money loser.

“It sounds like the city doesn’t want to be in the stadium business anymore,” said Greg Brown, Spokane Public Schools’ capital projects director. “The city doesn’t have the money to keep it up.”

The district and city officials have been talking in recent weeks. But discussions are “very preliminary,” said Jan Quintrall, the city’s division director for business and development services. “We are looking at all the property we own and asking if it makes sense for us to own all this real estate.”

The answer: “No, it doesn’t.”

The city hasn’t decided if it would sell the property, which it rents to Mead School District and Spokane Public Schools for athletic events. It has ordered an appraisal, Quintrall said.

“We’ve got a lot more data to gather before we start making any more changes,” she said.

The 95-acre property is assessed at $14.5 million.

Another factor driving the discussion about the stadium is that an agreement between the two districts and the city is coming to an end. When Mead and Spokane schools bought new turf in 2006, the city promised to not sell Joe Albi until 2016.

Officials in both districts are preparing for the possibility of Joe Albi Stadium being eliminated for football games.

“There’s a certain sense of urgency to make a decision,” said Herb Rotchford, Greater Spokane League director, who organizes the games.

Additionally, Rotchford, a former Shadle Park High School principal, favors the district taking ownership of the stadium to preserve the past. “We need to honor the history,” he said. “There’s a reason it’s called Joe Albi. There’s always been something special about going to Albi for a football game.”

The district estimates it will cost $18 million to buy and renovate Joe Albi. That would include a dramatic reshaping of the stadium, from about 26,000 seats to about 8,000 seats, along with a new field, lighting, scoreboard, sound system, locker rooms, ticket booths, concessions and paved parking.

If the city keeps Joe Albi, Spokane Public Schools would then consider building football facilities for each of the high schools. That’s because, “basically, the facility is oversized, run down and not adequate for our needs,” Brown said.

Plus, the profits from concession sales go to the city, not the schools.

Schools envision using those food and drink sales as fundraisers.

The cost of improving fields at each of the high schools, including lighting, concessions, ticket booths, and expanded seating and parking, would cost between $16.8 and $19.7 million, according to a feasibility study done by ALSC Architecture.

Before moving forward with a proposal on either option for the 2015 bond, Brown said, “we want to hear what the community supports.”


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