Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 58° Clear
News >  Education

Spokane officials choose United Soccer League to bring men’s and women’s teams to new downtown stadium

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 14, 2021

The under-construction downtown Spokane stadium is expected to host professional soccer. Two competing leagues made their pitches to play at the stadium as early as 2023.  (SSR)
The under-construction downtown Spokane stadium is expected to host professional soccer. Two competing leagues made their pitches to play at the stadium as early as 2023. (SSR)

The path was cleared Tuesday morning for a United Soccer League team to play in Spokane.

By unanimous vote, the Spokane Public Facilities District board of directors directed its staff to begin negotiations with the USL to field a League One franchise, possibly in the spring of 2023.

Following a committee’s recommendation, the PFD board opted to go with the USL proposal instead of an MLS-affiliated team proposed by Brett Sports.

Both teams presented packages to a committee on Monday. The difference was the USL’s larger up-front financial commitment and its promise to field a pro women’s team in Spokane.

The USL proposal included a $4 million investment in the stadium for upgrades, with half of that money to be paid within 18 months of a lease-operating agreement.

The Brett Sports package included base rent of $200,000 annually, plus 7% of net ticket sales.

“The articulation of the investments was very significant,” board chair Marty Dickinson said after the vote. “I think it’s important to bring outside investment into this community, and I want to emphasize that they felt like a really good partner who was ready to do this with us.”

Board member Nathaniel Greene said he was impressed by the USL’s commitment to bringing a women’ team to Spokane and its commitment to “to include minorities and other underrepresented people.”

Dickinson added that “the women’s side of things is definitely in the forefront. They (the USL) are ahead of the game, compared to where we were with the other party.”

Cindy Wendle, who is leading USL efforts in Spokane, said she appreciated the work of the PFD and Spokane Public Schools.

“They made sure they had thorough evaluation from the community and confidence in the choice they made,” said Wendle, who promised some important announcements “soon.”

However, Wendle acknowledged that the USL is still working on finding a franchise owner.

It’s also unclear when the new downtown stadium will be ready for action. Greg Forsyth, director of capital projects for Spokane Public Schools, said Tuesday that because of the uncertain composition of the ground, he “couldn’t say for sure” whether the facility will be complete by the spring of 2023, when the USL League One season would begin.

In the meantime, Wendle said the franchise will work on branding and other projects.

The two presentations were graded on a 0-100 scale, with up to 25 points in each of four categories: the written proposal, including a statement of qualifications; understanding of the scope of the project; past operation and management experience and obtaining advertising; and financing.

The USL scored 80 points compared to 60 for Brett Sports, with the USL scoring higher in all four categories. Eight point of the 20-point difference came in the financial category.

“We are obviously disappointed because we believe the partnership of Brett Sports, the Seattle Sounders and Major League Soccer presented a historic and powerful opportunity for the Spokane community. Having said that, we respect the SPFD Board’s decision; we will continue to be a supportive partner to the Spokane Public Facilities District,” Dave Pier, chief marketing officer for Brett Sports, said in an email.

The prospect of professional soccer in Spokane was boosted by Spokane Public Schools’ approval last spring of a $31 million, 5,000-seat stadium to be located downtown instead of in northwest Spokane.

Though owned by the school district, the stadium will be managed by the PFD, which also runs the nearby Arena and newly completed Podium.

The downtown site had been supported since the spring of 2020 by the USL, which promised to bring a League One team to Spokane.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.