A skeptical-looking Spokane Valley City Council listened intently to a presentation about a proposed Spokane Regional Sportsplex in downtown Spokane at its Feb. 2 meeting.
The Sportsplex is a $41 million joint project between the Public Facilities District, the Spokane Sports Commission and Spokane County and it would be located just north of Riverfront Park, east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
It would feature a field house with space to hold 17 volleyball courts, 10 basketball courts or 21 wrestling mats, as well as a 200-meter banked indoor track and an NHL regulation-size ice rink.
If the sportsplex is approved by county voters, the project would include significant upgrades to Plantes Ferry Park such as artificial turf, lights and better restroom facilities, and a new softball park north of Liberty Lake and east of the HUB Sports Center.
Presenters Kevin Twohig, CEO of the Public Facilities District, and Eric Sawyer, president and CEO of the Spokane Sports Commission, told the council that the positive financial impact of a downtown facility would also be felt in Spokane Valley.
One example, Sawyer said, is that teams that visit Spokane for the State B Basketball tournament at the arena rarely stay in downtown hotels.
“Many of them already stay at hotels in the Valley,” Sawyer said. “And while they stay there they shop, go out for dinner and fill up their cars.”
The proposed sportsplex would bring in 26,000 to 46,000 additional hotel stays every year, Sawyer said, in addition to as much as $1.7 million in increased general tax revenue.
After the presentation, Mayor Rod Higgins said the number of additional hotel stays sounded high and he had questions about how the project would be financed.
Twohig said the main part of the funding would come from a countywide levy lift.
Higgins said he’d prefer the main sports facility be built in the Valley and he’s worried who would have to make up a loss generated by the facility.
“The county would have to make up the difference,” Sawyer said, “because the county would own the facility.”
The Valley is in the middle of an independent study of which sports facilities are needed there, and last year began setting aside part of its lodging tax revenue to go toward a venue or sports facility in Spokane Valley.
Sawyer added that he’s hoping to get the Valley behind the project.
“I know it’s a big leap for the Valley,” Sawyer said. “I respect that Valley voters have a lot of civic pride and hope they see themselves as part of the region.”
The proposed sportsplex may make the ballot by August.
Higgins said the City Council needs a lot more information before it can get behind the proposal.
“We’ve seen a similar presentation before, so this isn’t exactly news to us,” Higgins said. “But now is a good time to be open and honest about the proposal.”
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