Valley puts $2 million toward Avista Stadium upgrades
Fri., Feb. 3, 2023
Spokane Valley is chipping in for a $22 million Avista Stadium renovation project.
On Tuesday, the Spokane Valley City Council unanimously voted to contribute $2 million from its lodging tax fund to pay for upgrades to the Spokane Indians’ home field. State law requires local governments to spend lodging tax dollars – which primarily come from a tax on hotel rooms – for the benefit of the tourism industry.
Avista Stadium is in good shape for a 65-year-old ballpark, but it needs a long list of improvements to comply with new Major League Baseball requirements.
Those requirements are forcing Spokane County, which owns Avista Stadium, and the Indians to come up with millions of dollars to rebuild the playing surface, expand locker rooms, install better lighting systems and more. If the county and Indians can’t come up with the money and complete the upgrades before the start of the 2025 season, Spokane County will likely lose MLB-affiliated baseball.
The MLB-mandated upgrades, mainly intended to benefit minor league players, will cost approximately $16 million. The Indians also want the project to include $6 million in fan amenities, which could include an elevated concourse around the outfield fence and new field-level seats next to the dugouts.
Spokane Valley’s contribution, which came after Spokane County and the Indians asked for $3.25 million, isn’t the first.
The Indians have pledged $2 million. In December, Spokane County commissioners Josh Kerns and Al French said they were willing to pay up to $8 million for the renovations, but their commitment came with a handful of caveats.
French and Kerns said they would only chip in $8 million if the Indians could find another $8 million in matching dollars. They also demanded the Indians increase their annual lease payment from about $25,000 to $100,000 a year, pay for all future maintenance and begin sharing a percentage of their revenues with the county.
The Indians haven’t yet indicated whether they’ll accept the terms of the commissioners’ offer.
While the $2 million in lodging tax funds will only cover a fraction of the $22 million project cost, it still marks an important turning point as the Indians work to secure state funding from the Washington Legislature this winter.
Eleven professional and amateur baseball teams throughout the state, including the Indians, are lobbying the Legislature for stadium renovation dollars. The Indians are seeking $5.8 million from the state.
Spokane Democrat Andy Billig, the Senate majority leader and a co-owner of the Indians, has said he won’t participate in the lobbying effort and won’t vote on the state budget if it includes funding for the Indians.
Spokane Valley City Council members said they believe keeping the Indians and improving Avista Stadium is in the city’s best interest.
City Councilman Tim Hattenburg noted the project and $2 million commitment has the support of hoteliers on the Valley’s lodging tax advisory committee. He also stressed that the Indians give local families access to affordable summertime entertainment.
Councilman Rod Higgins said he believes the Avista Stadium project will pay economic dividends for Spokane Valley, especially now that the Indians have moved up the minor league ranks to High-A and play more home games each year.
“It’s well worth the investment,” he said.
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