After pressure from downtown businesses, a professional soccer league and many community members, the Spokane Public Schools Board voted to build an outdoor stadium downtown.
School Board President Jerrall Haynes said he hoped the downtown plan would bolster art, the district’s equity goals and give sports, and band programs a place to play.
“I genuinely believe that when all is said and done, that this decision is a step in the right direction to bring Spokane to a better place, but especially Spokane Public Schools, and allows us to create new and innovative ways to support our students and families that are on the margins of society far too often.”
The Stadium will be built by the school district and operated by the Public Facilities District, which currently owns the Spokane Arena and nearby Podium Sports Complex. Before it would agree to a deal however, the school district required the P-F-D to meet several criteria including that any cost overruns would not be paid for by the school district, that the school district gets a share of all event revenue from the facility, and that equity is a priority.
The PFD agreed to the conditions last week.
Nikki Lockwood, the only board member to vote against the downtown location said she had two major concerns.
First, the damage to the Spokane Civic Theatre. The theatre would have to be soundproofed for performances to continue undisturbed, and parking would be an issue. School district staff said they discussed a collaboration with the theatre, allowing elementary school students to do afterschool programs there, and promised to help raise funds for soundproofing. Several legislators have also signed a bipartisan letter promising to try and secure funding for soundproofing during the legislative session.
The PFD has also promised to provide free parking for school district events and work with the Civic Theatre on issues during their performances.
Lockwood said she also was concerned that the district was ignoring the will of the voters, when they they voted down a downtown stadium in 2018.
“It may have been flawed, but that’s not the fault of the voters. Many voters have said very loudly, and clearly that they knew exactly what they were voting for and they stand by that.”
Now that the school district has approved the downtown stadium, they will need to further negotiate terms of the agreement. Construction is estimated to start in February of 2022 and the stadium will likely be finished in the fall of next year.