Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: School board should support North Bank stadium pitch


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The Spokane Public Schools board should act quickly to back the proposal for a new stadium near downtown Spokane as an alternative to rebuilding Joe Albi Stadium on the northwestern edge of the city.

A stadium at a more centrally located site—east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and north of the soon-to-be-completed Podium sportsplex on Spokane’s North Bank—would provide opportunity for a wider variety of events. Those events would draw more people to Spokane and spur more economic activity. A recent study cited by the Downtown Spokane Partnership shows that such a venue would generate $11.4 million in annual economic impact for Spokane, compared with $1.3 million at Albi.

Moving quickly is essential, as preliminary steps for the Albi project are set to begin next month, and $30 million-plus in voter-approved funds that would go toward that project would be essential to build a more centrally located venue.

As the Journal reported earlier this month, the DSP and other supporters have proposed revisiting the idea of building a 5,000-seat stadium on the North Bank that would be funded largely—but not exclusively—by voter-approved school district bond dollars and operated by the Spokane Public Facilities District. The United Soccer League has pledged to put up to $2 million toward the project and to establish a team here.

The benefits to the district are clear. The PFD would handle maintenance and operation of the venue, which would save the district an estimated $17.5 million over the life of the facility. The site also is easier to access for a greater number of its students than the site in northwest Spokane.

The idea of a centrally located stadium surfaced in 2018 and was rejected by the school board at that time. A hastily prepared and flawed advisory vote showed citizens were in favor of the Albi site by a two-to-one margin.

But as we pointed out three years ago, the advisory ballot item only went to voters in the city of Spokane, while portions of the district, including the upper South Hill, lie outside of the city limits. Those voters had a voice in approving the school bond that would support construction of a new stadium, but they didn’t have a say in the ensuing advisory vote. Also, too many questions about a downtown stadium were unanswered at the time. Today they are.

Would the outcome of the vote have been different? That’s an unknown, but it likely wouldn’t have been the landslide it appeared to be.

Besides, a lot has changed in the past three years—specifically the last year—and passing on an opportunity to boost economic activity is a luxury our community can’t afford right now. Plus, the school district can’t afford to pass on substantial annual savings in maintenance costs.

The Spokane business community has been faithful in its support of school bond and levy measures throughout the years, and those measures have passed in part because of the private sector’s consistent message about the importance of a quality education system.

Now, the school district has an opportunity to put its resources behind a project that can give a desperately needed economic jolt to the community it serves. The school board should be all for that.

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