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

Spokane Public Schools could downsize, replace Joe Albi Stadium

By Amy Edelen The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Public Schools is considering options to build three new middle schools, and one plan could potentially bring a new high school sports stadium to downtown Spokane.

The middle schools would be built on Foothills Drive near Gonzaga Preparatory School; on a six-acre site near Thorpe Road and Hwy 195; and on a district-owned 20-acre parking lot south of Joe Albi Stadium.

Spokane Public Schools could then choose to either downsize Joe Albi Stadium from 30,000 to 7,000 seats or convert it into soccer fields – which the city would fund – and build a new stadium downtown.

The city initially approached the school district with the possibility of a downtown sports stadium, said Mark Anderson, Associate Superintendent for Spokane School Support Services.

“It is appealing to us because it is central to all our high schools,” Anderson said. “The city sees it as an economic development driver.”

A proposed site for the potential sports stadium – which would be funded by voter approved bonds – is on city-owned land stretching from the north bank of Riverfront Park to Boone Avenue.

The stadium would be located directly north of Sportsplex, a sports facility concept proposed by the Spokane Sports Commission and Spokane Public Facilities District, said Rick Romero, Spokane’s former utilities director who rejoined the city last year to handle special projects.

The addition of a high school sports stadium could make downtown a “sports hub” by drawing large crowds and accommodating soccer, high school football and state competitions, said Anderson.

The school district met with this week with city planning officials and the Spokane Public Facilities District to discuss the possibility of the new stadium, Anderson said.

In preliminary discussions, Spokane Public Schools and the city have yet to determine cost figures for the stadium and which entity would operate it. Studies need to be conducted to determine financial impact of a new stadium with participation of finance and facility boards, Romero said.

“We need to take a look at the economics of Albi Stadium compared with a downtown stadium,” Romero said.

Joe Albi Stadium – which was built in 1950 – is at the of its useful life and would have to be replaced or downsized, Anderson said.

Spokane Public Schools swapped property on the South Hill to receive a credit towards purchasing Joe Albi Stadium, which they would own in 2021.

In a 2013 study conducted by Spokane-based ALSC Architects PS for Spokane Public Schools, the estimated cost of a building a new stadium was about $23.7 million – not including land acquisition costs – while a renovation of Joe Albi Stadium was about $18.1 million.

Preliminary discussions are part of the city’s strategic plan to bring council, mayor and key staff together to decide best uses for resources and that includes city owned land that is part of non-performing assets, said Romero.

The Spokane School District is a natural partner, Romero said.

By using the city’s properties, “we started to see a lot of common ground and win-wins with some of the stuff they need to do,” he said.

The opportunity to connect the downtown stadium to lodging, restaurants and the city center “intuitively is something easy to get excited about,” Romero said.

The plan is to present the middle school and stadium concepts to city council and the school board, Anderson said.

“We will start due diligence by getting cost studies going for middle schools and the stadium over the next several months,” he said.