BOISE -- The plan to build a sports park in Boise has become a hot button issue. On Thursday, the city hosted an open house for people to learn about the project and provide some feedback.
The plan is to build the park on Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive in the River District neighborhood in Boise. The proposed stadium and accompanying mixed-use development will sit on 11 acres that the developer, Chris Schoen with Greenstone Properties, is under contract to buy from St. Luke's.
Boiseans have mixed opinions on the proposed stadium. Many are concerned over how it's proposed to be paid for, where it's set to be built, as well as resulting traffic and parking issues.
Thursday's open house was really the first chance for the community to learn about the project firsthand and tell city officials what their thoughts are on it.
It was a full house at the Boise Centre Thursday evening. Crowds formed around poster board displays that covered fundamentals of the project, like the process timeline, financing, economic study, location and more. Boise officials have wanted a sports park for years and feel it's needed now in downtown Boise.
It would serve several different purposes: It would be an updated stadium for the Boise Hawks baseball team, home turf for a professional United States Soccer League Division II team, and Boise State University baseball and women's soccer are expected to play there, as well.
In addition, the city says it will be a venue for dozens of youth sports, events, festivals, and concerts.
We heard a lot of mixed opinions on this project while attending the city's open house on Thursday. Many people saying they're opposed because it's expected to be paid for in part with taxpayers' money, and they believe those funds could be used elsewhere or that the private developer should foot the entire bill so taxpayers are not at risk.
"I like the idea of a downtown stadium and a multi-use facility. I don't like - in fact, I very much don't like - the idea of publicly financing a good part of it and then relying on a private developer through his own efforts to repay the balance of a loan," said Boise resident Allen Humble. "I don't want a hole over there on 11 acres."
"It's not the fact I'm opposed to the stadium in general or I'm opposed to baseball. I'm an avid sports fan. But it's just the convoluted finance scheme that this is all wrapped up in right now. On paper, it just doesn't pencil out to be the best interest of the taxpayers in the community," said Boise City Council Seat 2 candidate Logan Kimball. "At the end of the day, I think a project like this should have the vote of the people."
On the other side, a number of Boiseans we spoke with are excited and think the park would be an overall benefit to the sports community and Boise as a whole.
"I think this park will definitely improve the health of the Boiseans and of course provide them more opportunity to go out there and do the activities," said board member of the Boise Cricket Club, Omair Shamim. "I think we definitely need places for people to go hang out, we have to have places where people can go out and enjoy with their families, where they can go out and watch the games... "I think the location is very good and again will enhance the image of Boise."
"I'm supportive of the new stadium. I think it will be a really good development potential for downtown Boise, for Boise in general, for the economy," said Boise resident Ralph Lantz. "Having a place for college baseball, women's soccer, lacrosse, a lot of multi-events. It'll just revitalize the whole area and just keep it going and expanding it."
Lantz says it's also time the Hawks get a new stadium.
"Memorial Stadium is terrible," he said. "It's a great setting but it's old and antiquated. They need a new park and this is a multi-use stadium. This will be awesome, it'll be great."
If you didn't make Thursday's open house, you'll have other chances to this month to learn more and weigh in. There will be two more public hearings: one on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 5:30 p.m. at Payette Brewing and another on Monday, Oct. 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at City Hall.
There are still a lot of lingering questions and concerns out there about traffic, parking and noise. The developer says they're going to be studying all of that in the coming months, so more information will come to light about those issues.
According to the project timeline, the project will undergo land-use process, including multiple opportunities for public input, to ensure it meets livability standards for traffic, noise and light in the spring of 2018.