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Spokane Public Schools board votes to build new stadium downtown

The SPS board chose the new proposal for a downtown stadium over the plan to renovate Joe Albi Stadium. Board member Nikki Lockwood was the lone no vote.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A new stadium will be built in downtown Spokane, near the Spokane Arena, following a vote by the Spokane Public Schools board Wednesday night.

After three years of back and forth, the board ultimately voted 4-1 to approve a detailed proposal for a downtown stadium that met a variety of requirements board members had outlined two weeks prior.

The members ultimately felt that the benefits of the proposal were so overwhelming, it wouldn't make sense to continue with the existing project to replace the old Joe Albi Stadium at its current site in Northwest Spokane. The $31 million in funds for the project come from a bond passed in 2018.

Board member Nikki Lockwood was the lone no vote, citing a 2018 advisory vote that indicated preference for the Albi site that has since been criticized for omitting large swaths of SPS voters, along with concerns about the impact the stadium could have on the neighborhood.

The decision between two stadiums has been months in the making. There were two separate proposals for board members: one is a stadium in downtown Spokane and the other is to renovate the existing Joe Albi Stadium in North Spokane. 

Here are specifics on the proposals.

Joe Albi Stadium

The Joe Albi renovation project has been in the works since 2018. SPS took over operations of the stadium from the City of Spokane a couple of years earlier in 2013. According to Spokane Public Schools, there are a couple of reasons a renovation is proposed for the stadium.

One is because of the size of Joe Albi stadium. It is currently too large for the events that would be hosted there. A new middle school is also part of the renovation proposal. The stadium is also in need of upgrades. 

In public meetings, Spokane residents expressed concerns about the stadium's location. Many say there is not enough public transportation to the site and since it will be used by all high schools in Spokane, the location should be more central. 

The Downtown Stadium Proposal

The newest of the two proposals is for a stadium in downtown Spokane. This proposal from the Downtown  Spokane Partnership is for an entirely new stadium to be built next to The Podium and the Spokane Arena. 

In April, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward endorsed the proposal to build a stadium downtown. 

The Downtown Spokane Partnership and United Soccer League are instead proposing a 5,000-seat stadium that would be home to SPS football and soccer games and bring a new professional soccer team to the city. 

The Spokane Public Facilities District has already agreed to key portions of the proposal. Woodward is also joining others who have already endorsed the proposal, including the Spokane Sports Commission and Visit Spokane. 

On April 15, the SPS board heard a presentation on the results of a survey commissioned to gather public input but members did not weigh in themselves.

Opponents of the downtown stadium often say it would overshadow the Civic Theatre near the proposed site. However, when asked for an official stance on the new stadium, they did not give one. 

“Spokane Public Schools has a decision to make that will influence the next 30 years of its operation and shape our community in the process," Woodward said in her video endorsement ahead of the meeting.  

A survey was also conducted to gauge how residents of Spokane feel about the proposal. More than 5,000 of the 7,700 people who participated in the downtown stadium survey expressed support for the proposal. Many people said they liked a more central location due to its ability to improve access and potentially boost the economy. 

Previous downtown Spokane stadium proposals

A stadium in downtown Spokane has been proposed before. In 2018, Spokane residents were asked if they would rather have a new stadium downtown or renovated Joe Albi stadium. 

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, according to SPS.

However, the advisory vote was issued by the City of Spokane. Only Spokane residents within the city boundaries were able to vote in the survey. 

According to SPS, this 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.