This post has been updated several times since originally being published on July 7, 2018. What was once a Spokane Public Schools bond question then morphed to a city bond question and now Spokane City Council will place it on the ballot as an advisory vote because, one way or another, Spokane Public Schools has $31 million embedded into their bond request to either upgrade the current stadium on the fringe of town or build a new one downtown.
Phew! What an exhausting ride. No matter how it’s paid for or who owns the ballot question, if the goal is to build an urban stadium destination, the points below still apply.
Don’t Worry About Traffic Studies
This just in: downtown stadiums create more traffic.
You’re the big city school district. Bringing a suburban development mindset to an urban conversation is the best way to take a great idea and turn it into something lame. Predicating choices based on fears of traffic and parking is a blunder our neighbors from Mead and Central Valley make every day. Embrace your urban challenges because they are assets that your less robust suburban neighbors don’t have.
Don’t build us a suburban stadium and try to fit it downtown. Build us a stadium that contributes to downtown’s urban character.
Don’t Worry About Parking
This just in: residents fear parking shortage downtown.
Coor’s Field was built in a dodgy part of downtown Denver in 1995. The smartest thing site planners did when designing the project was intentionally not provide enough on-site parking. Yep, they built less parking stalls than what all the silly code books say you need for a stadium because they wanted visitors to park all over a crummy neighborhood and walk to the facility. The approach is called activating the street and, wouldn’t ya know it, the neighborhood around Coor’s Field is hip-hopping these days primarily because planners didn’t provide enough parking at the stadium.
There are stadiums located in dense urban areas throughout the nation. The concept is well-worn and plenty of guidance exists to successfully integrate a stadium into the urban fabric of downtown Spokane. By learning successful design concepts from other urban stadiums located throughout the nation we’ll learn that parking and traffic challenges can be leveraged as assets, not liabilities.
It’s Not a High School Football Stadium
It’s an events facility. If we’re going to build a new pony downtown, let’s make sure it can do more than one trick. There’s only 52 weeks in a year and event planners will be the first to tell you that it’s actually easy to fill each week with an event if you have the proper facility to do it with. If you build a multi-purpose venue, it won’t be hard keeping it in use.
Pro Soccer? Yes, Please
Mayor Condon has been cooking up a partnership with a semi-pro soccer league in an effort to launch a team in Spokane — a wise move. As stated above, in the events management game, it’s all about filling 52 weeks per year and banking on a full season of soccer sure makes that job a whole lot simpler.
Partner with the Spokane Indians Baseball Team
What is events management about? Yep, filling 52 weeks per year. There is a deal to be had to move the Spokane Indians downtown.
Partner with the Public Facilities District, Visit Spokane, and the Sports Commission
We get it, you’re in the education business not event management. Not to worry, because our friends at the Pubic Facilities District, Visit Spokane, and the Sports Commission are quite good at attracting events to event facilities. Coordinating and partnering with all three will help build a successful business model and ensure sustainability.
Consider Striking a Deal With the PFD to Operate the Facility
Striking a deal with the Public Facilities District to operate and maintain the new venue is a conversation worthy of exploration. They already manage the Arena, Performing Arts Center, and the Convention Center quite effectively and it’s not unusual for owners of large event venues to delegate operations to a third party expert.
There’s a deal to be had with the PFD if both parties are willing to entertain the conversation.
Explore a Public/Private Partnership
Event facilities create all sorts of interesting real estate opportunities for the private sector. It’s definitely worth having conversations with real estate developers to explore all manner of potential partnerships. For instance, if a hotel developer were to build a hotel and a parking structure in the area in exchange for the land to do it, that’s a win for Spokane Public Schools, the Public Facilities District, and the future indoor sports complex that will be constructed on the adjacent block.
There’s a deal to be had with the private sector if both parties are willing to entertain the conversation.
Best Home Field Advantage Around
All those regional farm schools that come to play the GSL won’t be in Kansas anymore once they step foot in the bright lights and big city of downtown Spokane. The more raucous, the more diverse, the more big city, the better.