A month before the Spokane Public School Board is scheduled to start construction on a new Joe Albi Stadium, they will again ask constituents if they want the stadium to be built downtown instead.
The pivot comes after a request from a coalition of business organizations and hospitality leaders as well as a professional soccer league.
During a school board meeting Wednesday, they promised to cover maintenance of operation costs for the facility and offered some private investment if the school district built the stadium downtown.
School Board President Jerrall Haynes suggested holding public forums to allow the community to quickly weigh in on a stadium, before the board can discuss it, and decide.
“I think that each of us were elected to lead and lead based on the best information we have available, including community input," he said.
Though board members all agreed to schedule public forums next week, some still did have concerns. Board member Nicki Lockwood said the district had already spent $900,000 on architect and other project costs. Construction is scheduled to begin in April.
Mark Richard, the president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, said a downtown stadium would boost businesses hit hard by the pandemic by bringing in more events. It would also bring a professional soccer team.
“We do believe this will have a profound different positive impact on the economy, eight times what we will see at Joe Albi," Richard said. "That’s because we’ll get more of those fans, more of those folks coming from out of the area, and that will go to support living wage jobs.”
The planned stadium project will replace aging Joe Albi Stadium in northwest Spokane. It’s part of a bond measure voters approved in 2018. The same year, voters also weighed in on whether the stadium should be downtown or rebuilt at its current location. They overwhelmingly voted against downtown.
Richard said the group now has more investment, partners and information than it did during the advisory vote.
“We think two years is like a lifetime with what we’ve experienced in the last year. As much as we understand and respect their vote, we believe we have so much more information and such a more compelling argument to make, that’s why we’re here," Richard said.
The school board discussed asking voters a second time whether the stadium should be downtown, but decided against it. Running another election would cost the district about $100,000 and delay construction by at least a year.
The board plans to gather written feedback and hold public forums on the proposal early next week.
According to a draft proposal, Spokane Public Schools would have the right to use the stadium for 20 football games, 40 soccer games in spring and fall, and 10 other miscellaneous school events. Any events beyond that the district would have pay to hold there.
The Public Facilities District would provide 500 free parking spaces for Spokane Public Schools students and families during events.
According to the new proposal, the downtown stadium would be paid for with funds voters already approved to rebuild Joe Albi and an additional $2 million investment from the United Soccer League. Justin Papadakis, the chief real estate officer for the league, said a Spokane team would also sign a long-term lease for the facility.