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

Some features of Downtown Spokane stadium could be scaled down amid inflation and supply chain issues

The Downtown Spokane Stadium construction is progressing just east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The $31 million stadium will serve as a home for all of Spokane’s public school football teams and a USL team.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Inflation and supply chain issues are forcing Spokane Public Schools and its partners to scale back or delay some aspects of the new downtown stadium.

“I think inflation has caused us to look at a lot of different possibilities,” said Greg Forsyth, director of capital projects for the school district.

“But we haven’t lost any of the main components, or the overall quality of the project,” said Forsyth, who is working in coordination with the Spokane Public Facilities District and the United Soccer League.

Instead, the project’s partners will attempt to stay under budget by using some less-expensive exterior construction blocks and other substitute materials earmarked for non-critical parts of the stadium.

“To the common eye, no one will notice,” Forsyth said Tuesday.

Forsyth also hopes to mitigate the supply chain problems by buying some materials sooner than they will be needed and putting them in storage. However, it appears that most of the savings will have to come from delaying parts of the $35 million project.

According to Forsyth, those could include putting off construction of two of the four planned locker rooms as well as electric power upgrades to accommodate outdoor concerts.

Forsyth said that delaying construction of two locker rooms wouldn’t alter football games or soccer, though it might affect the logistics of a larger sports tournament.

There are no plans to reduce seating – which is planned for 5,000 people – or the concession areas.

The project also envisions outdoor concerts at the new venue. However, the cost of electrical equipment was underestimated in the original budget.

Other cost-cutting measures are possible as inflation soars, Forsyth acknowledged.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the price of building materials has risen 33% since the start of the pandemic.

On Tuesday morning, crews and machines were hard at work at the site, located just east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Huge piles of dirt and gravel sat atop the surface, but the actual building process has just begun.

That leaves more time to adjust expenses. However, if cost overruns continue, it’s unclear when and if the stadium would be completed as originally designed.

On the other hand, the PFD may eventually recoup parking losses caused by construction of the new stadium.

That’s because earlier this year the PFD got a $5.25-million loan from Spokane County to buy the Value Village thrift shop on the other side of Boone Avenue.

The stadium is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2023 – just in time for the fall sports season. The USL, which is contributing $4 million to the project, is expected to field men’s and women’s teams the following spring.

“The league is still committed as it was from the beginning; we plan to uphold our part,” said Will Kuhns, the USL’s senior vice president for communications.

Meanwhile, the Spokane franchise is still seeking an owner, but Kuhns said he was confident that would happen in the not-too-distant future.

“We’re having conversations and we are excited about the direction things are heading,” Kuhns said.

The project 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 the former Joe Albi Stadium site.

The decision capped almost three years of controversy regarding where to build the district’s new stadium.

In an advisory vote in 2018, almost two-thirds of Spokane voters preferred the Albi option, and the district proceeded accordingly with preliminary work at Albi.

Then came the proposal in February 2021 from the Downtown Spokane Partnership, which commissioned a study projecting $11.4 million annually in economic impact, a more accessible location and the chance to attract a professional soccer team.

School board sentiment was initially mixed, but the district opted to pursue better terms with the Spokane Public Facilities District. The resulting negotiations produced a deal that tipped the scales toward the downtown site, just east of the Arena.

The terms include the retention of full ownership of the stadium, priority usage rights, a long-term savings of at least $22.5 million, an ample supply of free parking for school events and a share of proceeds from all non-district-related events at the stadium.

Editor’s note: The headline to this story was changed on May 25, 2022, to correct an error. The original headline incorrectly said that inflation and supply-chain issues might delay the completion of the stadium. School officials, however, say that those issues would more likely cause some features of the stadium to be changed and likely wouldn’t delay completion of construction.