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

Would a downtown stadium help boost equity in Spokane?

There are a lot of open seats on the East Valley side of the field at Joe Albi Stadium during a September 2019 game.  (COLIN MULVANY)

As Spokane begins to recover from COVID-19, a new sports stadium probably won’t affect the daily lives of its families.

However, proponents argue that for many low-income families, a downtown facility would be far more beneficial than if it’s built in northwest Spokane.

Mark Richard, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, cites a study that the new facility could help generate an additional $11.4 million each year in the city.

However, it’s unclear how much of that money would reach businesses and employees hurt by the pandemic.

Hotels and restaurants will benefit, Richard said, noting that those are some of the businesses that have suffered the most during the pandemic.

“Downtown has been uniquely devastated at a much higher level than the rest of the county,” said Richard, who added that overall business is down 70% as many workers are staying home.

Helping them recover, he said “will also help the barista, the person waiting on tables. Those are the people who are unemployed.”

Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson agrees – to a point.

“Based on our work with West Central and other neighborhoods, the downtown economy cannot totally be separated from the rest,” said Wilkerson, who also said she saw the benefits of a quicker recovery for downtown.

“It will drive growth and opportunity,” Wilkerson said.

However, Wilkerson wasn’t sure whether those jobs will mean wages that would allow people to own a house.

“I want to see more family-wage jobs,” Wilkerson said.

The central location of a downtown stadium would also enrich the lives of students and families, Richard said.

Noting the proximity of the proposed location to Rogers, North Central and Lewis and Clark high schools, he said it would be much easier for low-income students and families to find their way to games – either by car or by bus .

It also would be more convenient to Ferris High School students and families.

“That’s much more difficult with Albi,” Richard said of the northwest Spokane site.