It felt like everyone wanted to play, but no one brought a ball or money for snacks after the game on Tuesday, as representatives from government, education and sports organizations listened to consultants discuss a study on the feasibility of a proposed multiuse sports complex at the HUB Sports Center and improvements to Plantes Ferry Park.
Consultant Bill Krueger, a principal with Conventions, Sports and Leisure, told the group that there’s a documented need for the new and expanded sports facilities.
The proposed sports complex would add eight tournament-quality softball fields with synthetic turf infields, lighting, parking, restrooms and playground equipment just east of the HUB Sports Center. Cost: nearly $28 million.
Plantes Ferry Park improvements would cost nearly $6 million and would convert two existing grass soccer fields to synthetic turf and add lights, as well as upgrade the existing softball fields.
The improvements to Plantes Ferry would significantly extend the play season there, Krueger told representatives from Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, the Central Valley School District and various regional sports organizations.
Krueger also said his organization’s study found a “significant unmet need” for softball and baseball fields in the greater Spokane area and recommended the new sports complex be built with 12 baseball fields instead of the proposed eight.
“A facility like that can be turned and burned very efficiently,” Krueger said, and would draw tournaments from outside the area that would help it be profitable.
“But I realize this is an expensive project,” Krueger said.
Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace asked the big question: Where is funding for the combined $33 million in projects going to come from and how much would the county pay?
County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn said the county owns Plantes Ferry Park and it’s possible the funding for those improvements could come from a ballot measure that seeks funding for county parks.
O’Quinn said the county would probably contribute $2.5 million to purchase land.
But she warned representatives of Spokane Valley, “We need your commitment to this project or it’s off the table as far as I am concerned.” O’Quinn noted that Spokane Valley stands to benefit substantially from the positive financial impact of either project.
Spokane Valley City Manager Mark Calhoun said Spokane Valley has set aside a percentage of its lodging taxes that could be used for part of the funding.
That amounts to around $377,000 a year, which could service a $6 million bond, Calhoun said, adding that the City Council will discuss the matter at its meeting on Dec. 13.
Spokane Valley City Councilwoman Pamela Haley wanted to know how many jobs at the proposed facilities would go to Spokane Valley residents. Krueger said that was not a level of detail that had been investigated.
Eric Sawyer, president and CEO of the Spokane Sports Commission, said there’s nothing like the proposed project on the West Coast.
“We would be able to attract a lot of tournaments,” Sawyer said. “The Valley needs this.”
Krueger warned those in attendance to not take too long to make a decision, especially since land must be acquired for the HUB project.
Bill Ames, who coached at University High School for 30 years, made an emotional plea for the HUB project.
“Get on board now and do something for the Valley,” Ames said. “I’m a little upset with all this talk. I’d like to see this happen before I die.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.