The question of where to locate a new football stadium hangs on a razor’s edge.
After a 45-minute discussion Wednesday night, the Spokane Public Schools board voted 3-2 to hear a proposal next week from the Spokane Public Facilities District for a Sportsplex that also would house an indoor sports stadium downtown.
That hearing will happen during the board’s next meeting, on Dec. 12.
The board’s decision comes four weeks after Spokane voters approved a $495 million capital bond, which included $31 million for an outdoor stadium to replace Joe Albi stadium.
In an advisory vote on the same ballot, 64 percent of voters preferred building a new 5,000-seat stadium on the current Albi site, not in the downtown area.
However, on Nov. 19, Spokane Sports Commission President Eric Sawyer sent a letter to board president Sue Chapin, asking the district to “support further analysis” of combining the facilities, with a potential savings of at least $10 million.
The Sportsplex, a $42 million project that is in the early design phase, is a partnership between the sports commission and the PFD.
The question was raised by Chapin midway through a meeting that was devoted to bond issuance and project planning for the 2015 and 2018 bonds: Should the board agree to hear the proposal?
The question boiled down to the relative merits of the advisory vote and the potential savings of a combined facility.
The board settled into three camps, with Deana Brower and Mike Wiser wishing to hear the proposal, Chapin opposed, and Jerrall Haynes and Brian Newberry both saying that it would take a “monumental” presentation for them to turn aside the results of the election.
After more discussion, Brower and Wiser voted “yes” and Chapin and Haynes “no.”
A “no” vote from Newberry would have all but ended the stadium controversy once and for all, but after a momentary pause, he agreed to the hearing.
“I’m not sure how you put the toothpaste back in the tube,” Newberry said. “But I’m not opposed to the hearing.”
While admitting that “the process wasn’t perfect” in the run-up to the election, Brower urged the board “not to let the process prevent us from doing the right thing in the long term, for the next 50 years or more.”
Wiser agreed, adding that the Public Facilities District idea represents “a third alternative that the voters have not heard about.”
Chapin, an admitted proponent of the Albi site, cited the need to be faithful to the voters’ wishes. She noted that out of 144 precincts, only 15 preferred the downtown location.
Chapin also said she had worried that inclusion of the stadium might hurt the bond, yet it passed with 67 percent approval.
“To me, the overwhelming majority said ‘We do want a stadium, and we want it at Albi,’ ” Chapin said.
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