SPOKANE, Wash. — Joe Albi Stadium is on the upcoming Nov. ballot twice.
For one, funding to replace it is included in a $495 million school bond. There is also an additional advisory vote on the ballot. This one asks voters whether they’d prefer the replacement stadium be built at the current Albi location or at a new downtown location near the arena.
KREM 2 took a tour of the current stadium with Spokane Public Schools spokesperson Brian Coddington to see the litany of problems.
The most common problems are chipped paint, cracks in the walls and gaps in the stairs that have been temporarily mended with filler material.
"Obviously you can see as you look around, a lot of winters, a lot of summers, and the weather's hard on concrete and an exposed structure like this," Coddington said. “You can see more damage, more cracking, particularly in the area of the stairs, the freeze, thaw, it starts to pop the concrete a little bit.”
The issues range from unpleasant deterioration to downright disgusting water damage. Several rooms in the press box have sagging, moldy ceilings.
The decay expands beyond the stadium. The old bathroom and concessions buildings are also in a state of unsightly disrepair. There are safety problems, too.
"There's no lighting in the parking lot, so the first light that people are exposed to is when they actually walk inside the stadium itself," Coddington said.
"Restrooms [nowadays] are more commonly found in closer proximity to the bleachers themselves, so that people don't have to go as far. But also just for the safety reasons,” he continued. “To be able to keep more lighting, more attention, more circulation, more visibility to a restroom facility is important as well."
It's also a 28,000-seat stadium that rarely gets more than 2,000 fans. That means it also has a 28,000-person parking lot.
"The maintenance on it has become overwhelming, and it's more than the community needs," Coddington said.
School district officials say it is time to replace the stadium.
"It's got a lifetime of memories,” Coddington said. “But at this point the best thing to do is knock it down and rebuild it."
Though they have looked into renovating the current stadium, Coddington says it's not an option that would make a lot of sense.
"It's much more costly to say cut the top off here and make it a smaller venue than it is to actually knock it down and rebuild it,” he said.
If voters pass the $495 million school bond, about $31 million of that will go to replacing Joe Albi. The new stadium would have improved lighting, all-weather turf, a closer bathroom and concession facilities, and would hold about 5,000 people as opposed to 28,000.
When determining where to build the new stadium, the district will take the advisory vote into account. It could end up on the current site, alongside a new middle school also included in the bond or in downtown Spokane.
"You're talking about a 60-year decision that the community's going to make, so it's important that we get it right,” Coddington said.
In July, the Spokane City Council rejected a proposal to put a Joe Albi Stadium replacement on the ballot. The reason the stadium ended up on the ballot is that the schools decided to take on Joe Albi and its problems to include in their own measure.