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Still no commitment from Spokane County for Avista Stadium improvements

2022-06-26 Avista Stadium sign.jpg
Jmar Gambol
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Required upgrades to Avista Stadium, home of the minor league Spokane Indians baseball team, are still in the works as the team and the county try to reach an agreement on how to pay the nearly $23 million price tag.

The team is asking Spokane County to contribute $11 million dollars over two years for the multi-phase upgrade plan. The team says it will raise the rest from its own coffers, a mix of private and public sources, and possibly state dollars. But it did not get the commitment it sought from the three-person county commission at a meeting Monday.

Spokane County CEO Scott Simmons said money available from selling two county properties could add up to $8.5 million. Simmons framed the issue as investing in a county-owned facility, which Avista Stadium is.

Commissioners Mary Kuney, Al French and Josh Kerns said they’re open to using the property sale money. While the $8.5 million is less than what the Indians are requesting, Kuney suggested making it the target amount for the county’s contribution to signal that Spokane County is serious about investing in the renovations.

But Kerns is irked that the team’s current lease doesn’t bring in as much money as it costs the county each year. He wants a guarantee that a new lease agreement would at least break even.

“Can you scale up to pay for a new, grander renovated facility?” Kerns asked team president Chris Duff. “I mean, that’s…I just want to make sure that’s possible. I don’t want another deal when we get there, that we’re still losing money.”

Duff told the commissioners the Indians are open to paying more under a new lease. But he wants a financial commitment from the county to get the renovations underway first, before re-negotiating the lease. The team’s current lease expires in 2029.

Commissioner Al French asked to further delay a commitment decision, while Indians executives stressed that time is of the essence. They hope to begin construction early next year, and previously told county commissioners that the first round of money must be in hand by January.

It is possible, but not guaranteed, that the two sides could meet again next week or early in October.

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.
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