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

Downtown stadium proposal: How did we get here?

From the sideline, North Central football players react to a pass reception downfield during their game with East Valley in 2019. The future site of a new Joe Albi Stadium is still under review.  (COLIN MULVANY)

Key moments led to the latest proposal for a downtown sports stadium.

May 15, 2018 – Hoping to take advantage of increased state funding support for schools, the Spokane Public Schools board staff raises the idea of placing a bond measure on the ballot to 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 issue as they seek more detail on parking, traffic and other issues. A major sticking point is the apparent lack of free parking, which could make the downtown option $10 million more costly than the Albi Site. District staffers promise to study the problem.

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 – Plans for a downtown stadium appear 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 to the Nov. 6 ballot. The district would build the new stadium at a total cost of $31 million, whether that’s downtown or at Albi.

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 in northwest Spokane or on Public Facilities District land in the downtown area north of the Spokane River.

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. The downtown site won a slight majority on the South Hill, but some North Side precincts went almost 80% for the Albi site.

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 divided 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 did 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.