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Woodward, Riccelli back downtown Spokane stadium proposal as district vote nears

April 20, 2021 Updated Tue., April 20, 2021 at 9:01 p.m.

This rendering shows the planned 5,000-seat sports stadium in downtown Spokane. Spokane Public Schools has submitted plans to begin construction this year.  (Courtesy of Downtown Spokane Partnership)
This rendering shows the planned 5,000-seat sports stadium in downtown Spokane. Spokane Public Schools has submitted plans to begin construction this year. (Courtesy of Downtown Spokane Partnership)

A proposal for a downtown sports stadium is gaining support from public officials, including Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and state Rep. Marcus Riccelli.

In a video released Tuesday, the mayor urged the board of Spokane Public Schools to direct $31 million in already-approved funds toward the downtown site instead of the current Albi location in northwest Spokane.

“Generational decisions are rare,” Woodward said. “Equally uncommon is the opportunity to reevaluate them through new information and fresh perspective.”

The school district stadium is the unique chance to do both, Woodward said.

“Spokane Public Schools has a decision to make that will influence the next 30 years of its operation and shape a community in the process.”

That decision could come as soon as Wednesday , when the board meets in a virtual special session that begins at 6 p.m. The agenda includes next year’s budget and back-to-school plans, but also the stadium, with “potential action.”

Board President Jerrall Haynes said last week that a decision must come soon if the district is to avoid costly delays in construction – regardless of the site chosen.

The stadium is part of a $495 million capital bond approved by Spokane voters in 2018. In an advisory vote during that same election, 64% of voters said they preferred the Albi site.

Since then, the district has proceeded with plans at Albi, though construction hasn’t begun.

Early in March, the Downtown Spokane Partnership pitched a new proposal for a 5,000-seat stadium to be located just east of the Arena.

The effort is backed by a study that predicts an $11.4 million annual economic boost for Spokane, and $17.5 million in long-term savings for the district. The central location could also attract a team from the United Soccer League.

Seeking input from the public, the district hosted a pair of virtual forums, both of which attracted heavy support for the downtown option.

A ThoughtExchange drew comments from about 7,770 people, with most favoring the downtown site. However, many questioned the availability of parking, the potential impact on the Spokane Civic Theatre and the wisdom of going against the advisory vote.

Woodward addressed some of those concerns in her statement Tuesday night.

“The downtown location the school board is considering affords budget flexibility for years to come, creates more equitable access to the students it serves through athletics and extracurricular activities, and establishes a partnership to maximize the use of the stadium in a central location and the resulting space around the Dwight Merkel Complex,” Woodward said.

“This past year has taught us to be flexible, open to new ideas, and adaptable in the ways we look for and seize opportunities. After respectfully considering the many perspectives and valid considerations that go into making a decision like this, supporting a downtown location makes the most community, access, and financial sense,” Woodward concluded.

Riccelli made similar arguments Tuesday night.

“I think we have a history in this community to do big things,” Riccelli said. “If we can do something that helps families, students and taxpayers, that’s the right thing to do.”

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