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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Mark Richard of Downtown Spokane Partnership lands top role at United Soccer League

Mark Richard, president and CEO of Downtown Spokane Partnership, stands in front of the organization's downtown office on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.   (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Mark Richard, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership and a leader of the effort to build a stadium downtown, has been hired to a senior position with the United Soccer League.

Richard, a lifelong Spokane resident and a former Spokane County commissioner, will relocate in May to Tampa, Florida, where he will be the USL’s Vice President for Expansion and Real Estate.

In that role, Richard will oversee day-to-day management and creation of relationships with expansion markets across the United States as the USL tries to grow its footprint.

That footprint will include Spokane, where ground will soon be broken on a new stadium that will house a USL team. Originally planned to be constructed in northwest Spokane, it will now be located near the Arena, after a vote last spring by the Spokane Public Schools board of directors.

More than a year earlier, the USL had shown interest in Spokane, but only with a downtown facility. The league now expects to field men’s and women’s teams in 2024.

Having helped pave the way for the league he will soon work for, Richard acknowledged that some people might be skeptical of the timing.

However, Richard pointed out that the Downtown Spokane Partnership was “supportive of the stadium moving downtown before the USL became a serious consideration and that our work was solely for the betterment of our community.”

“Also, we were not the decision makers,” Richard said, noting that he pointed out at the school district’s hearing “ that this was about the kids – and that if this didn’t make sense for the district parents and students, that they should not do it.”

Richard said the USL “hadn’t been on my radar” until the holidays, when we was contacted by Justin Papadakis, the league’s chief operating officer and chief real estate officer.

“Mark was a key and influential proponent of the downtown stadium becoming a reality in Spokane,” Papadakis said in a statement.

“As we continue to grow the league and bring soccer to new markets, Mark understands firsthand the necessity to having strong working relationships with local leadership and city partners to bring these development projects to life,” Papadakis said.

Richard will remain at the Downtown Spokane Partnership until Feb. 18, “to make sure that they have a smooth transition,” he said.

A Spokane native, Richard has spent his entire life in the Inland Northwest, apart from a year at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Before working at the DSP, he worked in residential real estate. In addition to two terms on the Spokane County Commission, Richard served on the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Downtown Environment, Spokane Health Advisory Council for the Regional Health Director and Board of Directors for the University District.