The $53 million indoor prep sports complex in downtown Spokane is still just a giant hole in the dirt, but organizers already have an event lined up for the spring of 2022.
The Spokane Sportsplex, a 135,000-square-foot facility designed for basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and track-and-field competitions, will be the host of the Indoor U.S. Track & Field Master’s Championships in a little more than two years, Eric Sawyer, president of the Spokane Sports Commission, told a gathering of elected officials and business representatives on a chilly Wednesday afternoon.
“Eugene, Oregon, can say they’re Tracktown USA,” Sawyer said. “But I think we’re going to beat them out on that, in the end.”
Representatives from the Sports Commission, the City of Spokane, Spokane County, the Spokane Public Facilities District and the Spokane Parks Department gathered beneath a tent Wednesday near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to witness the ceremonial moving of earth on the project.
A building that officials said had been dead and resurrected multiple times over the past 15 years, the facility is now slated for opening in fall 2021, with a slightly higher price tag and some delays caused by complications in property acquisition on the north bank of the Spokane River.
The money for the project comes mostly from non-voted bonds issued by Spokane County totaling $35 million. The Spokane Public Facilities District, which will manage the building, is putting forward $11 million toward the project out of its reserves. The City of Spokane has dedicated $5 million to the construction, and the Parks Department is leasing the land where the facilities will sit, between Dean and Cataldo avenues next to the arena. The state Legislature also dedicated $1 million to the project.
The facility is separate from the outdoor sport stadium proposed as part of either a city or school bond measure last fall. Voters rejected the idea of a downtown stadium in fall 2018, but the vote was merely advisory, and the idea could be revisited in the future.
That’s the hope of Spokane Mayor David Condon, who applauded the groundbreaking of a facility he said would build social capital in the town by uniting families and neighborhoods through youth sports. But he urged attendees to turn around and look north, the potential site of the stadium that he pushed for last fall.
“You know what I see over there?” Condon said. “I see a pretty amazing outdoor, multipurpose football, soccer and lacrosse field. That’s what I see.”
Condon shared an embrace after the groundbreaking with Rick Romero, the former city utilities director who helped shepherd the project along after rejoining the city in December 2016.
A fall 2021 opening will allow the Spokane Parks Department to program some events in the facility before the Public Facilities District plays host to national-level competitions, said Stephane Curran, chief executive officer of the organization that also runs the Spokane Arena, the Spokane Convention Center and the First Interstate Center for the Arts.
“Track season is really December to March, then the other sports we’ll be doing are more spring. There’s some stuff in the summer,” said Curran. “Luckily, in a way, it works out for us, because we’ll have a good couple of months to let the Parks Department program the building, so we can learn about the building and test it out.”
Plan documents submitted to the state for approval in April 2018 initially listed late 2020 as the completion date for the project.
The main attraction of the new building will be a 200-meter indoor track with turns that can be banked using a hydraulic lift. Such tracks are rare across the United States, and specifically on the West Coast, said Sawyer, who’s already in talks with local universities about hosting regional, invitational meets attracting elite athletes.
“The nice thing about hydraulic tracks, what makes them really popular with runners, is the consistency when you run,” Sawyer said. “You don’t get a spring-iness, when you hit the corners. It’s very consistent, all the way around.
“What’s happening, now, if you want to qualify for the NCAA championships, you’ve got to compete on an indoor certified track. And there’s just not that many, and we’re going to have one of the few of them on the West Coast,” he added.
Construction is also expected to coincide with the completion of the renovation of Riverfront Park. The north bank, visible just outside the windows of the new Sportsplex, will be home to a regional destination playground for children, a wheels park and other amenities intended to compliment the new prep sports facility. All those projects are scheduled to be open by the time the Sportsplex opens its doors, park officials said Wednesday.
Supporters say the project could bring as much as $33 million in additional visitor spending to the region once the facility is fully booked out. That includes attracting major track and field competitions, karate and taekwondo tournaments, basketball championships and more.
The USATF event in March 2021, which will bring elite athletes over the age of 40 to Spokane, is anticipated to have a $1.2 million economic impact on the region, according to the Facilities District and Spokane Sports Commission.
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