Spokane County commissioners approved issuance of $25 million in bonds to help build the Spokane Sportsplex – a proposed multiuse sports facility with capacity to host national and local events.
The $42 million Sportsplex – to be constructed on a 5-acre site north of the Spokane River and Riverfront Park – has been in the works for several years by the city, county, the Spokane Sports Commission and the Spokane Public Facilities District, said Larry Soehren, vice chairman of the facilities district.
Plans for the more than 180,000 square foot Sportsplex call for a multipurpose fieldhouse with a 200-meter, six-lane indoor hydraulic banked track, 17 volleyball courts, 10 basketball courts, 21 wrestling mats and an NHL-sized ice rink with 1,000 seats.
The Sportsplex will be funded through a combination of $11 million in bond reserve funds from the facilities district, $5 million from the city of Spokane and $2 million from a state capital budget request – in addition to $25 million in bonds from the county.
“I’m very optimistic that we will be moving forward here very quickly,” Soehren said. “We’ve cleared barriers for funding sources and are now going through formalities, such as an interlocal agreement with the city and a joint resolution with the county. I’m highly optimistic this will happen.”
The facilities district, which owns and operates the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, the INB Performing Arts Center and the Spokane Convention Center, will lease the 5-acre parcel of land from the city for $1 per year over 30 years.
The Spokane Sports Commission will be responsible for marketing and booking events for the Sportsplex.
The facilities district will oversee design, construction and operation of the Sportsplex. It will repay bond debt to the county over 25 years through lodging and sales tax generated from tourism.
The district’s lodging tax allocation committee pledged $5 million to cover any shortfall in revenue or operating losses for the first five years.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French said there’s been a variety of discussions between the county, facilities district and the city to address funding for the Sportsplex.
Spokane County – the fiscal agent of the public facilities district – also sold bonds and loaned funds to the facilities district for expansion of the Spokane Convention Center, he said.
The facilities district, the county and other agencies last year considered a ballot measure to fund construction costs for the Sportsplex, but the county withdrew the measure citing increased taxpayer burden.
City officials explored a partnership with the district last year to use existing tax funds combined with an anticipated sales tax rebate to partially fund the project.
Now with the county’s agreement to issue bonds to the facilities district, it won’t require a public vote because existing tax dollars already generated will be used to fund the project.
“From the county standpoint, we obviously generate a great deal of interest in activities that service the community throughout the year, whether it’s athletic activities or entertainment activities,” French said. “All of those attract visitors to the community and all of that attracts sales tax revenue. So, there’s not only a community interest in professional facilities like this, but there’s also an economic incentive to bring in additional retail sales tax generation.”
The Sportsplex, once built, would generate $33 million in direct tourism spending with an estimated 46,000 annual hotel stays, according to a study by Gonzaga University and Florida-based Sports Facility Advisory.
Spokane Sports Commission President and CEO Eric Sawyer said the organization has identified more than 200 sporting events that could potentially be hosted in the Sportsplex. The indoor track – which could be used for national track meets – would be the only hydraulic track located on the West Coast.
“These events are designed for the participants, which brings lots of people to town that spend a lot of money,” Sawyer said. “It’s a game changer for us. Not only will (the Sportsplex) attract national events, but it will also provide opportunity for local programs to grow because they are busting at the seams to find gym space.”
The facilities district will begin detailed design on the project this year with anticipated construction occurring in 2019.
“I think this has been a great project to show that multiple government agencies can come together and put the effort behind it and make it a reality,” Soehren said. “We’re moving forward. The hoteliers are really excited to get this going. They see the huge amount of benefit to this.”