For many years to come, the Friday night lights will continue to shine in northwest Spokane.
After a lengthy discussion, a deeply divided Spokane Public Schools board voted Wednesday night to adhere to the results of a November advisory vote and build a new 5,000-seat stadium on the current Albi Stadium site.
In front of several dozen onlookers, the board entertained a partnership proposal from the Spokane Sports Commission and the Spokane Public Facilities District for a combined Sportsplex and indoor stadium.
During a 20-minute presentation, sports commission President Eric Sawyer and PFD Chief Stephanie Curran offered a broad outline of the benefits of a partnership. Their request was for “a few weeks” to firm up details on costs and other details.
But even with the prospect of saving up to $20 million with a combined facility, the majority of the board went with the voters, 64 percent of whom voted in favor of the Joe Albi site.
“I believe in the democratic process,” board member Jerrall Haynes said. “But if we are to go against the voters’ decision, we run the risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in voters going against bonds in the future.”
Following the presentation by Sawyer and Curran and favorable comments from the public, Haynes motioned for a vote on whether to proceed with planning and construction on the current Albi Site.
As the five-member board discussed the issue, the division was clear: Haynes and board President Sue Chapin favored the Albi site, while Deana Brower and Mike Wiser sought to give the PFD time for further study.
That left the decision to Brian Newberry, who last week sided with Brower and Wiser in allowing the presentation.
Last week, both Haynes and Newberry said it would take a “monumental” presentation to persuade them to give the go-ahead.
Ultimately, neither could do so.
While acknowledging the potential benefits of the combined facility, Newberry said, “I wish we had this conversation six months ago.”
“My biggest fear is that we would be breaking trust with the voters,” Newberry said as he joined Haynes and Chapin in voting no.
The final vote was 4-1, as Wiser joined the others in voting yes for the Albi site for the sake of unity after failing to gain support for another chance to put the decision before voters.
Brower was the strongest voice for giving the PFD time to craft a proposal.
Based on the district’s tentative timetable for the planning and construction of six new and replacement middle schools, a definitive answer wouldn’t be needed until late spring, associate superintendent Mark Anderson told the board last week.
Citing the potential savings, Brower said, “This requires due diligence, and due diligence requires time. I don’t see a sense of urgency.”
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