Plans to build an Olympics-level indoor sports facility on the north bank of the Spokane River got a little closer to reality this week, as a report showed that the facility would generate four dollars in economic impact for every dollar spent to build and operate the complex during its first five years.
The 185,000-square foot “sportsplex” is planned to sit on five acres of land just east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, and would house a 200-meter hydraulic banked indoor track, the same type used in the Olympics. The track would be just one of 10 in the country.
Funding for such a project is still uncertain. One possibility would be to ask voters to approve a county-wide parks bond.
According to the Spokane Sports Commission and Spokane Public Facilities District, which would jointly operate the center and its programming, there are 200 national sporting events that Spokane can’t host because it lacks the proper facilities. With a sports complex, Spokane could bring up to 40 events to the city every year. The complex would host track and field events, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, roller derby, boxing, fencing and weight lifting. It also could house an “ice sheet” for hockey, figure skating and other ice sports.
Kevin Twohig, executive director of the PFD, said the recent completion of a feasibility report by the Florida-based Sports Facility Advisory showed that Spokane could support such a facility. The report notes that two-thirds of feasibility studies done by the Florida group show that a complex is not feasible.
“We’re still in the early stages of what could be a very exciting project,” Twohig said. “We need some kind of a plan to go forward from our elected officials.”
According to the report, which the PFD paid for, the complex would cost about $35 million to construct, and $1 million to operate in its first five years. In that time, the feasibility report estimates that the complex would generate more than $101 million in economic impact.
“To get $101 million back is phenomenal,” Twohig said.
Revenue for the facility would come primarily from concessions and renting out the space for basketball and volleyball tournaments, track meets, sporting camps and clinics and other related activities. The report estimates the facility will generate between $1.2 and $1.9 million in revenue each year.
The facility would be a “participant center” and not for “ticketed events,” Twohig said. It would be designed for youth, collegiate and other amateur sports, and would have capacity for up to 3,000 spectators.
Spokane City Councilman Mike Allen, who also sits on the city’s park board, said he supported putting the complex on the north side of Riverfront Park, but had some concerns about the report’s revenue figures and the number of events it could attract to Spokane.
“Overall, I felt very good about it,” Allen said. “The report answered the question of what’s the best facility that meets the needs of the community and gives us the means to attract national sporting events to Spokane.”
Allen noted that a number of hurdles must be overcome before the complex is built. Funding must be found for the facility, and the land on the north bank where the complex would be built must be secured. The vast majority of the land is currently owned by the city and controlled by the city park board, though a few other parcels are privately owned.
“Nothing gets built on the north bank without park board approval,” Allen said.
Allen said there were a few avenues for pursuing funding, including putting the complex on a future countywide park bond.
Earlier this year, the Spokane County Parks Department conducted an online survey to determine which projects residents were most interested in building. A regional indoor sportsplex in downtown Spokane placed third in the ranking of priorities, behind improvements to the Centennial Trail and to soccer and softball fields at Plantes Ferry Park.
The price tag for the Plantes Ferry improvements has been estimated at $5.8 million. The county parks department estimates the combined costs of improving Plantes Ferry and building new fields at The Hub sports complex in Spokane Valley would cost roughly $23 million, creating a regional facility there.
Spokane County Commissioners have not yet decided which of these projects, if any, would go before voters as part of a ballot measure to raise money for construction, but a downtown sports complex would likely be the most expensive among them.
Twohig said the PFD and its three “really strong partners” were all very supportive of the complex. Those partners are the sports commission, Visit Spokane and the Spokane Hotel Motel Association.
On Thursday, Twohig gathered influential people in Spokane to hear a presentation by Evan Eleff, vice president of the Sports Facility Advisory, to win their support. Among those who saw the presentation were County Commissioner Todd Mielke, developer Mick McDowell, Kiemle & Hagood’s president and CEO Larry Soehren, Spokane city Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley, Spokane City Council members Mike Allen and Candace Mumm, and Inlander publisher and park board member Ted McGregor.
Still, Twohig said the project was “on hold until the city and county make a decision.” He said he would prefer a public vote for funding, which if successful would lead to completion of the building within two years.
“The district would like that kind of assurance from the voters,” Twohig said.
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