Spokane Journal of Business

Plans for indoor sports complex move closer

Committee narrows number of possible sites to three

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A Spokane steering committee thats pushing for development of a big indoor sports complex here has narrowed to three the number of sites its considering for the facility.

Initial plans call for the proposed structure to have at least 150,000 square feet of floor space and to cost between $10 million and $15 million to construct, says Eric Sawyer, executive director of the Greater Spokane Sports Association. Sawyer co-chairs the 12-member steering committee with Rick Betts, who co-founded Hoopfest.

Though some money has been earmarked for design work, no funds have been secured yet for construction of the project.

Sawyer says the three sites the committee is considering are located near downtown on the north bank of the Spokane River across from Riverfront Park; on an 18-acre parcel just south of the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, formerly known as the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds; and on a site on the Joe Albi Stadium grounds on the North Side.

The committee is focusing its efforts on the north-bank site and on the parcel near the fairgrounds, which the Spokane Transit Authority is in the process of buying in hopes of using as a transit village along a proposed light-rail system, Sawyer says.

While the committee hasnt ruled out the site near Joe Albi, Sawyer says that the citys Parks and Recreation Department is considering developing a big outdoor sports complex of its own there that would include softball and baseball fields, and other facilities for outdoor sports. That complex would take up most of the 100 acres of undeveloped land there.

The steering committee for the indoor complex recently received $20,000 from Spokane County to hire an architect to design such a facility. Sawyer says the committee will match the commissions contribution with $20,000 it has raised from private donors.

Construction work on the project, which would be called the Spokane Regional Court Complex, probably wouldnt begin for another two years and likely would take about a year to complete, he says. Initial plans call for the building to have 16 basketball courts that could be broken down into 32 volleyball courts. Sawyer says the size of the building could grow if the committee determines that it would need, and can afford, to have additional gyms.

The facility also would have a central court with seating for tournament championship games and other events that would attract big crowds. Other features of the complex would include top-of-the-line flooring; scoreboards and shot clocks on each court; movable seating configurations; a 20-foot high computerized results wall; office space; a first aid and training room; locker rooms; a media room and coaches library; a small retail outlet; a food-court area; and a child-care area.

Sawyer says the Spokane area has needed such a facility for the last four or five years, especially because of the steep growth in basketball and volleyball, as well as other indoor sports.

Were way behind the eight ball when compared to other communities of the same size, Sawyer says.

According to a study commissioned last year by the Spokane City Parks Foundation and the Athletic Round Table, the Spokane area needs at least 26 new courts, 16 of those immediately, to meet the demand for court space during peak periods.

If we do nothing, participation levels will not be able to increase. There isnt any more space available for playing, the study said.

The study found that between 1990 and 1996, the number of youth volleyball teams jumped to 102 from just 10. The number of youth basketball teams over that same time period, meanwhile, jumped to 147 from 22. Other, lesser-known sports, such as jump roping, badminton, and table tennis, also have grown in popularity. Sawyer envisions having enough gym space to serve the entire sports gamut.

A majority of the money for construction will come from a combination of public and private donations, such as grants, proceeds from the sale of naming rights, and revenue bonds. Sawyer says there likely will be some state money from a fund set up to help build youth sports facilities across the state. That fund, which could reach $70 million over a 20-year period, was established when state voters approved a referendum to build a new football stadium for the Seattle Seahawks.

He envisions the facility would be owned by a public agency, such as Spokane County, or by a facilities district similar to the one that oversees the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

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