April 16, 2014 in City

Spokane County proposes $45 million park levy

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane County officials want to team up with other local agencies to seek $45 million in park and sports facility improvements through a ballot measure next year.

About half of the money would pay for an indoor sports field house on city-owned park land on the north bank of the Spokane River adjacent to Riverfront Park.

At a cost of $20 to $25 million, the field house would serve club-organized sports events. It would draw visitors to Spokane for tournament play, among other uses. The facility has been a priority of the Spokane Sports Commission.

The other half of the bond issue would go to park and sports facilities owned by the county but serving the broader region. That would include a new park in the east Spokane Valley or Liberty Lake area. And Plantes Ferry sports complex would be improved with the conversion of two fields to artificial turf and LED lighting.

Park facilities would be expanded at two aquatic centers at Bidwell Park on the North Side and the Southside Aquatics facility.

Completion of the Fish Lake Trail near Cheney and enhancements to Fish Lake Park also are part of the proposal along with improvements to county-owned neighborhood parks.

The plan is still in the formative stage, officials said, and will likely be modified before it is sent to voters next spring.

The county would ask voters to approve an increase in the regular property tax levy in what is known as “levy-lid lift” measure, which requires a simple majority to pass.

The proposal is estimated to cost $28 a year in property taxes on a $200,000 home. The collection would run for nine years.

Eric Sawyer, president and CEO of the sports commission, said the proposed field house could include an ice rink facility that the Spokane Chiefs would use for practice.

But that would add $5 million to its price tag.

He said that field houses are being built in other communities, but are often located away from downtown areas. Having a downtown location would make a Spokane field house competitive for drawing tournaments.

The field house would have a 200-meter indoor track for track and field events. It would also host volleyball, wrestling and even table tennis. A soccer configuration is another possibility.

The site that is being eyed in Spokane is a former dairy property east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena that was purchased through a voter-approved bond measure in 1999 as a potential site of new park attractions and a possible science center.

Sawyer said the Spokane Public Facilities District, which operates the Arena and Spokane Convention Center, would lease the north bank property from the city.

The PFD would then operate the field house, which would likely need an annual subsidy of $150,000, he said.

But the subsidy, Sawyer said, would be considered an investment in the expansion of tourism and retail trade because it would increase out-of-town visits.

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