FAQ: 2021 Downtown Stadium Proposal
SPS has been moving forward with a plan to build a new stadium at Joe Albi due to the disrepair of the 50-year-old facility. It has been consistently stated that our planning is continuing on schedule, and that any community group is welcome to share ideas about the concept of a downtown stadium if new details or information becomes available.
The district recently received a formal request from the Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) to present a new proposal for a downtown stadium option. The SPS Board of Directors accepted the request of the DSP and the United Soccer League (USL) to present on March 10. The purpose of the board presentation was for the DSP to share new facts and to answer questions.
Learn about the differences between the past and current stadium proposals in the chart and FAQ below.
Downtown Stadium Proposals: Then & Now
Didn’t Spokane voters decide against putting the new stadium downtown in 2018?
As part of the 2018 bond proposal, which was a partnership between the city and school district, a non-binding advisory ballot asked city residents whether they preferred the district to build a new, smaller stadium on the existing Joe Albi Stadium site, or on property owned by the Spokane Public Facilities District (SPFD) adjacent to the Spokane Arena and planned sports complex. Of the city residents who voted, 64.31% said they preferred the current Joe Albi location and 35.69% preferred the site adjacent to the Spokane Arena.
Because the advisory vote was issued by the City of Spokane, it was sent only to voters who live within city boundaries. That means more than 10,000 SPS residents who live in Spokane County (10.4%) were unable to vote on this advisory measure, and roughly 5,000 Cheney and Mead school district residents who live within City boundaries (5.3%) were able to cast a vote about the SPS stadium location. Finally, 7,388 Spokane voters (7.8%) cast ballots but didn’t vote on the stadium location question.
What is Downtown Spokane Partnership proposing?
The Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) and the United Soccer League (USL) are proposing that the school district use the $31 million approved by the 2018 bond to build a new stadium adjacent to the Spokane Arena and new “Podium” indoor sportsplex, rather than at the Joe Albi Stadium site. Their proposal does not require any type of tax increase from the current bond, which was passed by Spokane voters in 2018.
The new proposal includes several factors that were not in place three years ago:
- If the downtown stadium is built, the USL will bring a professional soccer team to Spokane and serve as team owner.
- The Spokane Public Facilities District (SPFD) would build the stadium using the $31 million provided by SPS along with $2 million provided by the USL for stadium enhancements and acquisition of additional land for additional parking.
- SPFD would own and operate the stadium, saving the school district an estimated $17.5 million in annual operations and maintenance costs.
- SPFD would provide SPS use of the stadium at no charge for all school district events, including football, soccer, marching band competitions, graduations, and others. Free parking would be provided for parents, students, fans, and patrons at all school district events held at the stadium.
Why is a new stadium needed?
SPS took over operations of Joe Albi Stadium from the City of Spokane in 2013. Because of Albi’s crumbling infrastructure, security considerations, and a capacity many times greater than the need for high school events, the district included funds for a stadium replacement in its 2018 bond.
As part of the bond plan, the city transferred ownership of the Joe Albi property to SPS to accommodate a new middle school on the stadium’s 20-acre parking lot.
The district chose to replace the stadium with a smaller, multi-purpose facility. As part of their partnership bond planning, the city and district considered two options. The first was to build the new facility at the site of the existing stadium. Because of its massive size, the existing stadium carries with it a requirement of a proportional parking footprint that makes it impossible to use the property as a future middle school site.
The city and district also considered the option of building a new stadium downtown on land owned by the Spokane Public Facilities District adjacent to the Spokane Arena and the planned Sportsplex (now under construction as “The Podium”). As part of that option, it was proposed that Spokane City Parks run a future bond issue to expand all-weather fields at the Dwight Merkel Complex on the current Joe Albi site.
Why doesn’t each high school just host its own games?
On-campus stadiums at each of the district’s five high schools would be significantly more costly to build or improve and maintain.
In 2013, Spokane Public Schools commissioned a study on whether to replace the aging Joe Albi Stadium by building a smaller, 5,000-seat stadium at its current site, build a new stadium at a central location, or build stadiums at each of the district’s five comprehensive high schools.
The study found that building one stadium for use by all SPS schools was significantly less expensive in both initial construction costs and ongoing maintenance and operations costs. Additionally, there are concerns about neighborhood impacts related to traffic, parking, and lighting. Three of the district’s five high schools do not have enough room to meet parking requirements.
Hasn’t the district already started the planning process for building at the Joe Albi site?
SPS has developed a design for a new 5,000-seat stadium to be built at the current location of Joe Albi and is scheduled to receive construction bids for the project in late March 2021. Demolition of the existing Joe Albi Stadium and the start of new stadium construction is currently scheduled to begin in April 2021 with an anticipated completion date of August 2022.
So far, the district has spent about $1.5 million on this process. Some of these costs are needed for the new Northwest middle school planned for the site.
What is the cost difference between building and operating a stadium at the current Albi site and the downtown site proposed by DSP?
The SPS budget from the 2018 bond for the stadium project is $31 million, regardless of where it is located. However, if SPS continues its plan to build a new stadium at the current Joe Albi site, the school district will be responsible for all maintenance and operations costs, estimated at $350,000 per year ($17.5 million over the life of the stadium). If the stadium is built downtown, the SPFD will take over the stadium’s maintenance and operational costs, which would save the school district around $17.5 million over the 50-year life of the facility.
What are the economic impact differences between the two sites?
If built downtown, the stadium would generate an estimated economic impact of $11.4 million, versus an estimated $1.3 million if SPS built the new stadium at Joe Albi. DSP has provided an economic impact study.
How would parking and traffic be impacted at the proposed downtown site?
Organizers of the downtown proposal have secured property adjacent to the proposed site for 500 parking stalls, which could be used for events at the proposed downtown stadium, the Spokane Arena and new “Podium” indoor sports complex. Since 2018, when the advisory vote was held, an additional parking garage was also built at the Wonder Building and with 300 stalls available for event parking adjacent to the Arena.
The DSP and USL have proposed reserving 500 free parking spots for patrons of all school district events. They have also noted that the downtown location is on major bus transportation routes for student, parent, and patron use, while Joe Albi Stadium in west Spokane does not have easy public transportation routing.
A traffic assessment commissioned by SPS before the 2018 bond and advisory vote concluded that city street infrastructure would be adequate for handling traffic related to events at the Spokane Arena, the new “Podium” sports complex, and a downtown stadium. The study noted that traffic control flaggers may be necessary if all three facilities held simultaneous events.
How does the public transportation commute time differ between the two sites?
More people from across the City of Spokane can reach the downtown site more quickly than the Joe Albi site, according to data provided by Spokane Transit Authority. The maps below (provided by STA) illustrate this difference.
Figure 1 shows how long it would take a commuter to arrive at the current Joe Albi Stadium site from various points across the city at 6 p.m. on a weekday. Numbers are approximate.
- 9,000 people could reach the site in 30 minutes or less
- 29,000 people could reach the site in approximately 45 minutes
- 79,000 people could reach the site in approximately 60 minutes
- 198,000 people could reach the site in approximately 90 minutes
Figure 2 shows how long it would take a commuter to arrive at the proposed downtown site from various points across the city at 6 p.m. on a weekday. Numbers are approximate.
- 32,000 people could reach the site in 30 minutes or less
- 108,000 people could reach the site in approximately 45 minutes
- 195,000 people could reach the site in approximately 60 minutes
- 281,000 people could reach the site in approximately 90 minutes
One-way Commute Times from Sample Schools
All commute times are approximated for a Wednesday at 6 p.m., based on the transit system as it exists today. If you would like to know specific commute times to each site from your area, visit spokanetransit.com and enter your start and arrival locations to access Google trip planner.
When is the board likely to make a decision?
ThoughtExchange results will be presented at the April 14 board meeting, and there will be a board discussion at the April 21 meeting. Register to attend a board meeting.
How can I give my input on this?
While our ThoughtExchange community conversation is now closed, community members can still share their thoughts with the SPS School Board via email: Schoolboard@spokaneschools.org.