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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County considering bundling parks upgrades with Avista Stadium property tax request

A high-angle view of the Avista Stadium baseball diamond in 2017. The stadium needs millions of dollars of upgrades in order to comply with new Major League Baseball requirements and Spokane County commissioners are weighing options for how to fund the work.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
A high-angle view of the Avista Stadium baseball diamond in 2017. The stadium needs millions of dollars of upgrades in order to comply with new Major League Baseball requirements and Spokane County commissioners are weighing options for how to fund the work. (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

If Spokane County wants to keep its minor league baseball team, it has to come up with $16 -22 million to renovate Avista Stadium.

Major League Baseball has raised the facilities standards for minor league ballfields. That means 60-year-old Avista Stadium, which the county owns, needs major upgrades. The Spokane Indians might pitch in a few million dollars and agree to an increase on their $24,500-a-year lease, but Spokane County is on the hook for the bulk of the cost.

To raise the money, the Spokane County commissioners are probably going to ask voters to approve a temporary property tax increase during the August primary election.

It’ll be a tough sell.

Homeowners might not be thrilled at the thought of taxing themselves to fix a baseball stadium.

So the county and Indians are looking for ways to sweeten the deal. On Monday, the commissioners heard a proposal that might do just that.

Instead of asking voters to tax themselves for a standalone Avista Stadium project, the county could bundle a handful of projects. Property owners wouldn’t just be paying to improve the stadium, they’d also be paying for trails, parks and community sports field improvements.

Bundling could generate more voter support. A tax proposal won’t pass unless more than 50% of voters agree to it.

The benefits of bundling are straightforward: Voters might be willing to pay if they get a nice new trail near their house, major renovations at a local park or new lights at their neighborhood athletic facilities. A bundled proposal would cost more, but it’d include something for everyone.

Doug Chase, the county’s parks, recreation and golf director, gave the commissioners a presentation outlining a preliminary idea of what the package could look like. Spokane County CEO Scott Simmons noted before Chase’s presentation that the concept is hypothetical at this point. Both the overall price tag and projects included within the bundle could change.

The initial proposal would add $38 million to the $22 million Avista Stadium cost, raising a total of a little more than $60 million.

That $38 million breaks down into $11.2 million for trails, $10.4 million for parks and $16.5 million for community sports.

Under the first category, $9.2 million would go toward the 11-mile Fish Lake trail that runs southwest from Spokane to Fish Lake, near Cheney. The Make Beacon Hill Public project would get $2 million.

Five parks projects would receive shares of the money. Liberty Lake Regional Park ($4.9 million) and Bear Lake Regional Park ($3.1 million) would get renovations. The county wants to set aside $1 million for future parkland acquisitions on the West Plains. Tennis and pickleball court improvements at Holmberg and Linwood parks would see $925,000 in new investment. Holmberg Park would also get $475,000 for an off-leash dog park and pickleball court expansions.

The county would spend on two types of community sports projects.

About $2.5 million would go toward various lighting enhancements at sports fields throughout the county. Better lighting at night means more time slots available for practices and games. Plante’s Ferry Sports Complex is slated for $14 million in funding, too.

The county commissioners will have to pick which type of tax increase they want to put on the ballot.

A bond issue would require 60% voter approval. Property owners would have to pay, roughly, an extra $5.98 annually per $100,000 of assessed value for 20 years.

In other words, someone with a $300,000 house would see their tax bill increase about $18 a year for two decades.

The other option is a levy lid lift, which only requires 50% voter approval. There are a few different ways to do a levy lid lift, but from a taxpayer perspective, it’d mean an increase of roughly $11.27 per $100,000 of assessed value for nine years.

That would mean someone with a $300,000 house would pay an extra $34 a year for the nine years of the lid lift’s existence.

The county commissioners and Indians have until May 13 to put a bond issue or levy lid lift proposal on the ballot.

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