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

As decision looms, Spokane Public Schools’ online survey shows widespread support for downtown stadium

An aerial rendering shows the location of the proposed downtown multiuse stadium.  (Courtesy of Downtown Spokane Partnership)

An online survey that drew more than 7,700 participants indicates heavy public support for a proposal to build a new sports stadium downtown instead of in northwest Spokane.

Commissioned by Spokane Public Schools, the ThoughtExchange survey results were released Tuesday afternoon.

School board members will hear a detailed presentation Wednesday night from ThoughtExchange CEO Dave MacLeod.

However, the conclusion of the 29-page report was clear: By a margin of more than 3 to 1, respondents said they preferred the downtown site, which would be located just east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

On April 21, the school board is expected to make a final decision on the location of the $31 million stadium.

Part of a $495 million capital bond approved by voters in 2018, the stadium is already financed. In that same election, the city of Spokane authorized an advisory vote in which 64.3% preferred the Albi site in northwest Spokane.

Since then, the district has proceeded with preliminary work at Albi, with bids due to go out later this spring to potential subcontractors.

However last month, the Downtown Spokane Partnership presented a new proposal for a downtown alternative, with the promise of $11.4 million in annual economic impact, $17 million in longterm savings for the district and other benefits of a more centralized location.

Since then, the district has reached out again to the public. A pair of public forums showed heavy support for the downtown option.

Meanwhile, the ThoughtExchange survey drew 11,223 comments from 7,704 respondents, of whom 48% identified themselves as community members, 30% as parents or guardians, 14% as district staff and 8% as students.

Exactly 50% said they lived on the South Hill or downtown.

Results from the survey were posted Tuesday on the school district’s website as part of the board meeting agenda.

The report showed slightly more than 5,000 thoughts in favor of downtown, with about 1,500 preferring the Albi site.

However, support for the downtown site was countered by those who feel the district should honor the 2018 advisory vote.

“Listen to your voters,” said one of the comments in opposition to the downtown proposal.

Others worried about the availability of free parking and the possible impact of a stadium on the neighboring Spokane Civic Theatre.

According to the stadium proposal, land would be acquired for 500 free parking spaces for school events.

The Albi site, which would adjoin a new middle school, would have about 500 free spots. However, downtown stadium backers argue the latter is more accessible than the Albi location.

A pro-downtown comment urged the district to “choose the site that provides equal access for all of the district’s high schools. A central location is a must.”

The report concluded with a summary stating that in 2018, “accessibility and broad usage were common interests.”

However, in 2021, MacLeod described “overwhelming support for a downtown stadium, with a smaller group of passionate supporters for a Joe Albi stadium.”

According to its website, the ThoughtExchange seeks to assess overall sentiment by posing open-ended questions and inviting responses.

Thoughts are shared anonymously with others participating in the exchange, and participants rate their agreement with each thought by assigning stars (from 1 to 5).

Finally, the data is gathered for analysis and used as part of the decision-making process.