Prospects for a downtown sports stadium got a major boost Friday as the Spokane Public Facilities District, which would maintain the site, agreed to sweeten a deal with Spokane Public Schools.
The PFD board of directors went even further than that, CEO Stephanie Curran said.
“I feel that we’ve met all the requests that they have, and that we have a path forward on each and every one of those,” Curran said. “I think this is great news for the potential for a downtown stadium.”
The current proposal for a new downtown stadium was brought forward in early March by the Downtown Spokane Partnership. It asks that the school district spend $31 million in previously approved bond money to build a stadium downtown instead of at the site of Joe Albi Stadium, which is slated for demolition.
On April 21, the Spokane School Board voted 4-1 to pursue more favorable terms to build the stadium downtown.
Those requests covered revenue sharing, land ownership, parking and other facets of the proposed 5,000-seat stadium.
After a meeting Thursday with school district staff, the PFD board voted Friday morning to meet each of the requests.
The proposal now goes back to the school board, which is expected to make a final decision Wednesday.
The biggest concessions from the PFD are that Spokane Public Schools would retain 100% ownership of the $31 million stadium and receive a share of the sale of each ticket sold for non-school events. Curran said the share hasn’t been finalized, but she said the school district likely would get around $1 per ticket on higher-priced events. And for each ticket costing closer to $10 or less, the school district might receive an amount closer to 25 cents, she said.
Presumably, that would include revenue from a team from the United Soccer League, which has expressed interest in playing at a downtown stadium.
The facilities district also promised to address concerns about parking for the Spokane Civic Theatre, which is located on land that would be adjacent to a new downtown stadium. The PFD also agreed to address how noise from the stadium would affect the theater and reiterated a previous pledge that parking would be free for school events.
School Board President Jerrall Haynes said Friday afternoon that he was looking forward to “reading and digesting” the proposal before “engaging in some thoughtful discussions with my fellow board members.”
“However, this sounds like a really good attempt to meet a high bar that was set by the district,” Haynes said.
In 2018, voters approved a $495 million school district capital bond, which included $31 million for a new stadium to replace Albi. Also on the ballot was an advisory vote from the City of Spokane, asking where voters preferred to build the new stadium.
By almost a 2-to-1 margin, Spokane voters preferred the Albi site in the northwest part of town. Since then, the district has begun planning and design for the Albi site.
According to DSP President Mark Richard and studies commissioned by the downtown group, a new downtown sports stadium would provide a boost for local businesses and add $11.4 million annually in economic impact.
“A win, win, win for Spokane,” Richard said when he introduced the proposal on March 3.
It also would provide a more central location than the Albi site , backers say.
That in turn would help attract a processional team from the United Soccer League, which has promised to contribute up to $2 million in improvements to a downtown stadium.
Since the new proposal surfaced, the school district has held two public forums and extensive online polling, both showing public support for the downtown site.
Opponents believe that the school board should respect the outcome of the advisory vote. They also have concerns over parking, given the proximity of other big venues in the area, including the Spokane Arena, and say the stadium would negatively impact the Spokane Civic Theatre because of parking and noise.
Curran said the PFD and the school district are prohibited from sharing public dollars with a private entity such as the civic theater.
“But we can have them at the table,” Curran said.
That would mean the theater would have input in how the stadium is designed, especially its acoustics.
“That would really move the acoustic piece up in importance,” Curran said.
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