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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Major proposals for CdA site include arena, transit center

North Idaho College considering owning, running 5,000-seat venue

Rita Sims-Snyder of the Coeur d’Alene Carousel Foundation talks about plans for the vintage carousel that is stored at Coeur d’Alene Honda last September. (Kathy Plonka)

Developers have big plans for the final phases of Riverstone in Coeur d’Alene, including the high-profile west entrance along Seltice Way. Here are the highlights:

Sports arena

An arena for college sports and community events is an idea that has been kicked around for several years.

It emerged again in recent months, with North Idaho College looking at possibly owning and operating the venue. The 5,000-seat arena under consideration would cost an estimated $12 million to $15 million.

Riverstone developer John Stone is enthusiastic about the project as an anchor on the west end of the development. The arena would provide an economic boost in the winter months when tourism falls off, he said.

NIC has outgrown its 64-year-old Christianson Gymnasium. College trustees recently voted to study the potential replacement as long as the project doesn’t hinder other building priorities on campus. They noted that NIC would need to rely on donations and other outside funding to buy the land and build the arena.

The Lake City Development Corporation, the city’s urban renewal agency, is vetting the proposal as a candidate for financial support, Executive Director Tony Berns said.

“We see the benefit to the college and the community on this. It just has to be really worked through to make sure it makes economic sense,” Berns said.

Transit center

Kootenai County and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which together operate the Citylink bus system, plan to build a transit center on four acres at the west corner of Seltice Way and Riverstone Drive.

Initially it will be a paved parking lot for people who use the free bus service, including employees of the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort 25 miles to the south, as well as a transfer site between Citylink’s urban and rural routes. It also will support paratransit services and Spokane Transit Authority vanpools.

In a later phase, bus bays and a building for waiting passengers and dispatch operations would be added.

Citylink, which operates 18 buses, has used the site as a transfer point and dirt park-and-ride lot since 2005.

About $1.7 million in federal transit grants is available to begin work on the transportation hub, said Christine Fueston, transit administrator for the county. The land will be appraised soon for purchase, with construction hopefully starting this year, she said.

Discovery center

A technology-based “discovery center” is being considered for a 5-acre parcel next to Riverstone Park.

It would invite kids to explore robotics, computer programming and app development, biotechnology and other fields in a hands-on way, explained Lorna Finman, the founder of Discovery Technology, the nonprofit educational organization behind the proposal.

“I wanted a high-traffic location and also a home where we could have some tournaments and events and camps,” Finman said. “And this location is ideal.”

A feasibility study, rendering and cost estimate are done, but much more needs to fall into place before it becomes reality, she said. “It’s an idea with a little meat on the bones.”

Discovery Technology operates a mobile technology classroom that visits local schools.

Coeur d’Alene carousel

In the two years since it was donated to the community, a 20-horse carousel manufactured in 1922 has sat in pieces in storage. A local foundation plans to raise money to get it reassembled and spinning again in a covered space.

“Our intent is to be at Riverstone,” said Cari Fraser, president of the Coeur d’Alene Carousel Foundation board.

The group hasn’t locked in on a location but has considered co-locating with the discovery center near the park. It also has looked recently at leasing vacant space in the Village at Riverstone.

The foundation may try to set up the carousel in a temporary space at Riverstone this year to reintroduce it to the community and raise money for a permanent home.

The carousel was part of the Playland Pier waterfront amusement park at Independence Point, near downtown. The park opened in 1942 and was destroyed in a 1975 fire.