Friday Night Lights, indoors? The Spokane Sports Commission is floating an idea for Spokane schools to integrate a football arena into the Sportsplex project.
According to the Spokesman-Review, the Spokane Public Facilities District is in the preliminary planning phase of the already-funded $42 million indoor Sportsplex. But now the PFD is looking into how it could meld the Sportsplex project with a replacement for Joe Albi Stadium.
SSC President Eric Sawyer says a combined Spokane Sportsplex and downtown stadium could save millions of dollars and improve the parking situation east of the arena.
PFD President Stephanie Curran feels combining the projects is an idea worth exploring.
Sawyer has asked for an audience next month with the Spokane Public Schools board of directors, which will meet Wednesday night to begin planning the details of capital projects following the passage last month of a $495 million bond.
Included in that bond is $31 million to replace 67-year-old Albi stadium. Also on the Nov. 6 ballot was an advisory vote that offered two replacement sites for a new 5,000-seat outdoor stadium. Sixty-four percent of voters preferred rebuilding on the site of Albi and not downtown.
Sawyer says that even with factoring in artificial turf, the combined project would save as much as $10 million.
Wednesday’s special meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the district’s downtown offices, is expected to focus on proposed project schedules for items passed in the 2018 bond as well as the 2015 bond.
The Stadium Replacement Project is on the agenda, though it’s unclear whether the board will make any determination regarding the stadium site.
Envisioning combining the project would require some changes in terms of widening the field and raising the ceiling for specific sports while potentially adding seats to match the school target of 5,000 for an outdoor stadium. Curran also added that parking concerns associated with the original stadium "would be completely resolved."
It is also believed that while some fans prefer football to be outdoors, the indoor facility could be a solution during poor air-quality issues from late-summer wildfires. Air quality problems have led to several cancellations of practices and games over the past few years.
For both Sawyer and Curran, the idea of a combined facility was always in the background. Had voters embraced a downtown site and the school board went along, it would have shared a border with the Sportplex on vacant land north of Riverfront Park and east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
However, the decision is now up to the school board.
“We just want the school board to give us a green light and listen to what we’re proposing,” Sawyer said.