Spokane County soon will start design work on $2.8 million worth of baseball stadium improvements required by a lease that pays $15,000 a year.
County commissioners unanimously appropriated $10,000 Tuesday to begin the design of a new concession building and other improvements at county-owned Avista Stadium.
The concession building is expected to cost $986,700, while the renovation and expansion of the stadium office would cost $795,800. Plans also call for upgrading restrooms, the clubhouse and an asphalt walkway.
The work is required by a contract signed early this year with Brett Sports, owner of the Spokane Indians baseball team. County officials hope to start construction next year in September.
Also Tuesday, commissioners approved an $830 increase in a $24,000 appropriation for design of a new control booth in the county juvenile detention center.
Preliminary estimates indicate the project could cost $630,950, but the work could be phased over several years.
“After seeing somebody walk through a door that was supposed to be locked, you’ve got my vote,” Commissioner Bonnie Mager told detention center officials.
Commissioners Mark Richard and Todd Mielke voted with Mager, but complained at length that ALSC Architects sought the increase in what Richard described as “an incredibly competitive market.”
Juvenile Court Services Director Bonnie Bush took her cue to hold back on a request to restore four staff positions she said are needed for safety.
County budget cuts since last year have stripped $824,000 and 10 positions from the department, and Bush said lack of manpower has caused detention officers to be injured in struggles with combative teenagers.
Bush anticipates that large cuts in the state portion of her budget will make the situation worse, but Richard said commissioners would “almost guarantee” the cuts if they provide assistance. That would encourage state officials to “shirk their responsibility,” he said.
“The only way we can give one department more money is to take it away from other departments,” Mielke said. “It’s money we don’t have.”
Nevertheless, Bush told commissioners, “I will be back.”
Richard anticipated public criticism for spending millions on a baseball stadium while basic county services are in crisis.
“I’m certain we’re going to get questions in terms of, ‘Why are you investing in Avista Stadium in this economic time?’” Richard said.
He said the stadium improvements are “just like” the $1.1 million the county is spending this year on safety projects at Spokane County Raceway.
“Had this (stadium) contract negotiation been under way right now in the midst of what we know of the economy, maybe the decision might have been different,” Richard said.
However, he cited safety and health issues at the stadium and saw a duty to provide recreational facilities “that we can enjoy for a long time to come.”
Mielke said the stadium concession building dates from the late 1950s and has had “some close brushes” with health inspectors. Also, he said, restrooms have access problems and some walkways have tripping hazards.
Mager was satisfied with assurances that the county is not obligated to spend $2.8 million if the work can be done for less.
The Spokane Indians lease specifies that Brett Sports will pay any amount in excess of $2.8 million.
The lease requires Brett Sports to pay its share of utilities and contribute $250,000 toward a parking lot paving project that primarily will benefit the adjacent fairgrounds.
The team pays $15,000 a year in rent in the first half of the 10-year contract and $19,500 a year in the second half. The team also pays some maintenance and other costs, according to the Spokane Indians.
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