As he stood on the downtown stadium construction site Wednesday afternoon, Greg Forsyth couldn’t hide his enthusiasm.
Forsyth, the director of capital projects for Spokane Public Schools, gestured toward The Podium and the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena before focusing on the stadium project.
“It’s a trifecta of sport venues,” Forsyth called it.
Even with rock and dirt piled high on the construction site on Boone Avenue, the vision of a new downtown stadium is coming into clear focus.
A year from now, high school football and soccer teams will be playing in a modern, 5,000-seat stadium. A few months later, professional soccer will join the mix.
That trifecta was a longshot only 18 months ago because the school district had committed to building a new stadium on the old Joe Albi site.
The downtown site became a reality last summer when the school board voted to allocate $31 million in previously approved bond funds to the downtown site and not at Albi.
The decision capped almost three years of controversy over where to build the district’s new stadium.
Forsyth addressed those concerns during Wednesday’s media event. He reassured the public that there will be plenty of parking, and he cited the stadium’s central location as a boon to students from throughout the district.
“One of the things that was important to our school board was that we create better access for all of our students, lower income or higher income, and this middle location is really, really important to us. Many of our high school students can walk to this site,” Forsyth said.
The project hasn’t been without problems. Originally budgeted at $31 million, it now stands at $37.9 million after increases in the price of building materials.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the price of building materials has risen 33% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That forced the district to make up the difference.
However, Forsyth pointed out that the district will save $21 million after it transfers ownership of the stadium to the Spokane Public Facilities District, which also runs The Podium and the arena.
Also, supply chain issues and a large amount of underground basalt contributed to a delay in the stadium’s debut. The general contractor, Garco Construction of Spokane, has trucked 130 tons of rock out of the site.
Last spring, Forsyth estimated a late-summer opening; now that’s being pushed back to late September, too late for the first games of the high school football and soccer seasons.
The wait will be worth it, Forsyth said.
“We all know the more stands, more people we have in the stands, the more excitement that generates and the more energy; really, we want that energy for our high school athletes,” Forsyth said.
The loss of several hundred parking spaces because of the stadium footprint will be made up, he added.
That’s because earlier this year, the PFD got a $5.25 million loan from Spokane County to buy the Value Village thrift shop building on the other side of Boone.
Paul Christiansen, director of sports for the PFD, sees another benefit to the addition of the stadium, which won’t be in use during winter months.
“That’s our busiest time,” said Christiansen, who hopes to use the stadium for storage space as well as a warmup area for athletes.
As he walked past the Spokane Civic Theatre, Christiansen pointed out that the stadium grandstands will also face away from the theater.
Christiansen said the PFD would be proactive in communicating possible conflicts with the theater.