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As construction deadlines near, funding specifics for Avista Stadium improvements still unclear

2022-06-26 Avista Stadium field.jpg
Brandon Hollingsworth/SPR News
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New lights, field renovations and a wraparound concourse are part of the Spokane Indians' plan for renovations to Avista Stadium. The team faces a 2026 deadline for completing required upgrades.

The Spokane Indians baseball team faces a spring 2026 deadline to complete millions of dollars in required upgrades to its home stadium in Spokane Valley. But how the work will be paid for is still being figured out.

For most of this year, the Indians and Spokane County have been in talks about how much responsibility each side will shoulder. The issue was most recently raised at an August 29 planning meeting with Spokane County Commissioners. Indians president Chris Duff told commissioners the upgrades will be well worth the price tag.

“This is a safe investment,” Duff said. “This is not a new team. This is not a new stadium. We know the stadium is in the right spot, we know the bones are right. And we know this community is very supportive.”

Spokane County owns the stadium. The projected cost of the upgrades is $22.8 million. The Indians are asking the county to commit $11 million over two years, and the team plans to contribute $3 million. The rest of the money would be raised through a mix of private and public sources, according to Duff.

Spokane County’s chief executive officer, Scott Simmons, said the county can probably come up with the money, though it’s not immediately clear how.

“I don’t have a magic bullet off the top of my head where $11 million might come from, but I think there’s some traction towards getting some of those dollars that we could start identifying from a number of sources,” Simmons said.

The improvements to Avista Stadium, built in 1958, are required by Major League Baseball. They include replacing the lights that illuminate the field during night games, remodeling and expanding the home and visitors’ clubhouses, replacing dugouts and other changes to the field and the stadium’s innards used by staff and players. The mandatory improvements are expected to cost $16 million.

The Indians also want to use the opportunity to make upgrades to the portions of the stadium used by fans. Those changes – including a concourse that fully encircles the field – would cost about $7 million.

County commissioner Josh Kerns indicated the team’s fundraising plans lacked specifics. He was also concerned that the county’s contribution might be disproportionately large.

“At the end of the day, it looks like there’s a lot of taxpayer dollars that are going to go into this,” Kerns said. “It’s looking less like a public-private partnership and more like a public-public-public-private partnership.”

Simmons asked Duff for more detailed information about construction timelines as commissioners continue to mull the team’s request. Duff told the group that a financial commitment must be secured before year’s end if the team is going to meet deadlines for improvements, with actual funding to follow early in the new year. He said getting the county’s support is a crucial step in advancing fundraising efforts from private entities.

“We’ve got enough funds right now to continue the design process, but once we get to the construction phase, the bidding phase, we will need additional funds,” Duff said, adding that the first round of money should be in hand no later than January.

Commissioner Al French suggested asking for state funding. Duff said the Indians and ten other professional and semi-professional baseball teams in Washington have formed a coalition to ask the state for money for the Avista upgrades and other projects.

Simmons and the county commissioners agreed to revisit the Indians’ request at a September 12 planning session, but that didn’t happen. An agenda for the commission’s September 19 meeting has not been published.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.