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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Dave Nichols: New proposal brings last chance for downtown outdoors sports facility

In the near future, the Spokane Public School District will build a new outdoor sports facility. That much is certain. It’s already paid for.

But where, exactly, is up for debate again.

Almost three years ago, voters approved $31 million in funding for the project as part of a $495 million capital bond to build three new middle schools and replace three others. That money will be spent on an outdoor sports facility, regardless of where they decide to put it.

So why not put it where many involved think it will do the most good?

The new outdoor sports facility for the Mead School District, Union Stadium, opened three weeks ago to rave reviews. Imagine what that type of facility could bring to downtown.

It’s no secret I am a proponent of building the new outdoor sports facility in the lot east of the Spokane Arena and north of The Podium, the new multiuse indoor sports facility just north of the river in downtown, instead of rebuilding at the Albi Stadium site.

The circumstances surrounding the project – including the economic impact the pandemic has had on the region – have vastly changed since the controversial advisory vote took place in November 2018.

A new proposal was presented by the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the United Soccer League last week. The league wants to put a franchise in Spokane, but it needs this downtown facility to do so – and the time is now.

The proposal just makes so much sense, on every level.

  • The downtown location is much closer and centrally located to the five city schools – Shadle Park, Rogers, North Central, Lewis and Clark and Ferris – that would play home games there.
  • It would allow for ample and free parking for high school activities, something no other downtown proposal has included.
  • It would host a professional soccer league team, which would be an investor in the project.
  • It would cost no more in construction and significantly save the district money in annual maintenance costs.
  • It would allow for more playfields than the Albi site, which could attract regional and national soccer and lacrosse events.

According to the comprehensive study presented by Mark Richard, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the downtown facility could host up to 5,000 spectators for professional soccer and high school sports (the same as Union Stadium), and more for concerts and other events.

The Public Facilities District would build and own the stadium, in cooperation with SPS and the USL, saving the district $17.5 million (roughly $350,000 per year) in maintenance and operations costs over the estimated 50-year life of the facility. SPS would be able to use the stadium free for all school district events.

In addition, DSP estimates it would generate an $11.4 million economic boost for Spokane.

One of the biggest questions about a downtown facility – parking – is settled by the new proposal.

Organizers of the downtown proposal have secured property adjacent to the proposed site for 500 additional parking stalls, which could be used for events at the proposed downtown stadium, the Spokane Arena and The Podium – for free.

Since 2018, when the advisory vote was held, an additional parking garage was also built at the Wonder Building, with 300 additional stalls available for event parking adjacent to the Arena.

Those numbers were so appealing that the school board seemed “satisfied with most of the answers” in the presentation, according to reports. The board is seeking public input on the updated project.

The door, it seems, has been cracked open.

If you’re a fan of high school sports in Spokane, and think the facility should be located downtown, you can make your voice heard.

The district will hold a second online public hearing on Wednesday to gauge sentiment on the issue.

On Friday, it launched a ThoughtExchange survey, a tool employed for previous issues.

That survey allows people to go online and let the board know what they think. Hundreds have already done so.

This opportunity is big – seemingly too big to pass up. The money involved alone is enough to move the needle. The school board recognized that by hearing the presentations and seeking public comment on an expedited basis.

They just need one last little nudge.

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