Downtown Spokane stadium idea runs into traffic

With the city of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools partnering for an upcoming bond request, the splashiest possibility for the package — a new DOWNTOWN STADIUM — got a reality check last week from the Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors.

click to enlarge Spokane Public Schools’ Mark Anderson
Spokane Public Schools’ Mark Anderson
The city and school district have been discussing a joint bond to put on the November ballot. It would fund three new middle schools on city land, replace aging middle schools and improve city libraries.

But the main point of contention has been over what to do with Joe Albi Stadium in northwest Spokane, says Mark Anderson, associate superintendent for Spokane Public Schools. Option 1 for the district would be renovating and downsizing the current stadium, which has a 30,000-person capacity yet is often empty during events. The district would then build a new middle school at the site.

Option 2, however, is what the city would prefer. The idea would be for the district to build a football stadium in the heart of downtown on city property. It would add to the vibrancy of the downtown core, it’s more centrally located for high school sports and it allows the city to expand the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in northwest Spokane, which could theoretically attract more tournaments. Joe Albi Stadium, in this scenario, would be demolished.

The school board, however, remains skeptical, Anderson says. For one, building a stadium downtown would cost the district $10 million more than renovating the current stadium. And the board is concerned about traffic and a lack of parking availability downtown by the Spokane Arena.

“If those two issues are solved, with us adding a parking facility and if the traffic impact is manageable, I believe that would satisfy [the board’s] concerns,” Anderson tells the Inlander.

Anderson, who has been working directly with the city on crafting a bond proposal, says the district is hiring a traffic consultant to look into potential impacts. The district is also conducting a survey for parents and staff to share their thoughts.

Anderson will go back to the board July 18 to look for final direction. The deadline to put the bond on the November ballot is Aug. 1.

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione is the Inlander’s news editor. Aside from writing and editing investigative news stories, he enjoys hiking, watching basketball and spending time with his wife and cat.