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News >  K-12 education

Downtown versus Albi: A timeline of the Spokane Public Schools stadium issue

UPDATED: Thu., April 22, 2021

This artist’s rendering shows the location of the proposed downtown stadium.  (Courtesy of Downtown Spokane Partnership)
This artist’s rendering shows the location of the proposed downtown stadium. (Courtesy of Downtown Spokane Partnership)

Key events leading to Wednesday’s decision by the Spokane Public Schools board to defer a decision on where to build a new stadium:

May 15, 2018 – Hoping to take advantage of increased state funding support for schools, Spokane Public Schools staff proposes a bond measure that would move up the timetable for building three new middle schools and replacing three others.

The proposal also includes two options for replacing 70-year-old Joe Albi Stadium: a downtown facility that would expand the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex near Albi, or building a new stadium on the Albi site.

May 29 – The Spokane Public Facilities District moves ahead with a separate project, a $42 million indoor sports complex near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The building would include an indoor track with room for basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling events. The project is to be funded through the sale of $25 million in bonds, existing PFD funds and city and state grants.

June 27 – School board members are divided on the stadium as they seek more details on parking, traffic and other issues. A major sticking point in the downtown option is the apparent lack of free parking, which could make the downtown option $10 million more costly than the Albi Site.

July 26 – City, school and library representatives meet to determine the specifics of what they’ll ask of citizens in an estimated $600 million in planned November bond measures.

July 31 – The downtown stadium idea appears dead as the City Council votes 5-2 to table a $31 million city stadium bond measure, citing concerns for pitching the construction of a sports facility when residents are more concerned about property crime and public safety.

Aug. 1 – The school board puts a $495 million bond measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. The district would build the new stadium at a total cost of $31 million, whether that’s downtown or at the Albi site.

Aug. 7 – In a special meeting, the City Council votes 5-1 to place an advisory vote on the Nov. 6 ballot on whether the new stadium should be located at the current Albi Stadium site.

October – As voting begins, a city study indicates that there is no need to build a parking garage as part of the downtown proposal.

Nov. 6 – The schools bond wins 69% approval on Election Night. At the same time, 64.3% of voters prefer that the new stadium be built at the Albi location.

Dec. 12 – Five weeks after the election, representatives from the PFD and the Spokane Sports Commission pitch a proposal to build a combined facility that would accommodate high school football and other sports. However, a deeply split school board votes to adhere to the results of the city’s advisory vote.

January 2020 – Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner sends an email to school board members, asking to make a presentation for a downtown stadium. The proposal does not receive a hearing.

March 2021 – The Downtown Spokane Partnership proposes that the school district build the new stadium downtown instead of at the Albi site. The proposal includes projections of $11.4 million in economic impact, long-term savings of $17.5 million to the district and a central location that also could attract a professional soccer team.

April 2021 – The school district holds a pair of public forums, both of which attract strong participation. The district also commissions a ThoughtExchange, which showed solid backing for the downtown option. However, a significant number of respondents said they worried about parking and possible effects on the Spokane Civic Theatre. Many others said the district should honor the results of the advisory vote.

April 21, 2021 – The board votes 4-1 to approve a resolution to pursue negotiations with the Spokane Public Facilities District over the terms that could lead to the construction of a stadium downtown.

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