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Downtown stadium hopes dashed as Spokane school board to move forward at Albi site

April 14, 2020 Updated Tue., April 14, 2020 at 8:56 p.m.

The Spokane Public Schools board of directors will move forward with a plan to build a new stadium near the site of Joe Albi Stadium, shown Sept. 27, 2018, rather than downtown, as some of pushed the district to do. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Public Schools board of directors will move forward with a plan to build a new stadium near the site of Joe Albi Stadium, shown Sept. 27, 2018, rather than downtown, as some of pushed the district to do. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The controversy over the location of Spokane’s new high school sports stadium is all but over.

Affirming an earlier decision to abide by the results of an advisory vote in 2018, Spokane Public Schools is moving forward with a new $35.2 million structure at the site of Albi Stadium in northwest Spokane.

On Wednesday night, the district’s board of directors is expected to give final approval to a $2.26 million contract with ALSC Architects of Spokane.

The firm had already been approved last summer to design the stadium and an adjacent middle school campus. The contract would formalize that deal, which already has moved the stadium project into the preliminary design phase.

According to district associate superintendent Mark Anderson, ALSC will offer design renderings as early as next month.

Those renderings would be used for “community engagement and feedback,” Anderson said Tuesday.

The stadium, which will be adjacent to a new middle school, is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2022. It will replace 70-year-old Albi Stadium, which will be demolished.

According to the contract, the project consists of a 5,000-seat multiuse stadium, an elevated press box structure, event lighting and 31,000 square feet of various support buildings, including a locker-room structure.

The project also includes parking lots, access roads and future playfield areas, all on a site of approximately 46 acres. The amenities are being designed so alcoholic beverages could be sold and consumed within the stadium or in designated areas at the stadium if the board elects to allow such activities for outside users.

A downtown stadium, if it’s ever built, now would only go forward without the school district.

Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, who had pushed the board to reconsider its choice of location, said the economic uncertainties amid the COVID-19 pandemic have left the downtown stadium “on the back burner.”

As recently as Feb. 12, Baumgartner and an official from the United Soccer League held a news conference to raise interest in a downtown facility.

At that time, Baumgartner held out the possibility of a “path that doesn’t include the school board.”

“There was a lot of positive momentum (for a downtown site), but really everything has been impacted by the coronavirus,” Baumgartner said Tuesday.

Baumgartner added he still believes the district would have saved money by building downtown. Meanwhile, school board president Jerrall Haynes said earlier this year the district would be open to discussions if “circumstances change significantly.”

Apart from a closed-door session on Jan. 15, the school board has held no meetings on the stadium issue since December 2018, when it rebuffed a proposal to pool funds for a combined Sportsplex-stadium.

The Sportsplex, a city-owned indoor sports facility located east of the arena, broke ground earlier this year. It does not have capacity for football games.

The stadium, which will be located north of a new middle school, was part of a $495 million capital bond approved by voters in November 2018.

Also on that ballot was an advisory vote, seeking voter input on whether the district should build a new facility at the current site or north of the Spokane River, near downtown.

Sixty-four percent of voters preferred the Albi site, though critics said the campaign was flawed and lacked visuals.

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