Boise businessmen speak out against proposed Boise Sports Park

Opponents speak out against proposed stadium.

BOISE -- As the proposed mixed-use downtown stadium inches closer to reality, it's drawing backlash from prominent Boise businesspeople and others.

A group is now organizing, calling themselves the Concerned Boise Taxpayers, and they're advocating for the city to slow down, be transparent and be responsible. This group says: "We are citizens of Boise, business owners and taxpayers. We support sports, development and a vibrant economy. But we oppose the proposed 'Boise Stadium Project.'" The group says the stadium is not the right fit for that area, and that taxpayers shouldn't be footing the bill.

"Public financing of sports stadiums for minor league teams does not work," Concerned Boise Taxpayers Co-Chair and former Albertsons CEO Gary Michael told KTVB. "Sports arenas should not be built with public funds."

"It's more of an economic issue of slow down, be responsible with public funds," Concerned Boise Taxpayers Co-Chair and former managing investor of the Idaho Stampede basketball team, Bill Ilett, said.

Especially arenas for minor league teams, Michael and Ilett say.

If all goes according to the city's plan, the Boise Hawks and a new professional minor league men's soccer team would both play at this roughly 5,000-7,500 seat stadium, along with Boise State University soccer and baseball. The sports park would also serve as a place for youth sports and as a venue for events, from concerts to cultural festivals.

MOREBoise closer to finalizing mixed-use stadium

"We think it's - no pun intended - a home run to be able to have the Boise Hawks, to bring in a new soccer franchise into downtown; Boiseans love soccer, it's a fast growing sport and people all across the Valley are engaged and excited about that," City of Boise spokesman Mike Journee said.

But Concerned Boise Taxpayers doesn't feel the demand is there.

"They're money losing sports," Michael added.

Michael and Ilett also say it's planned for the wrong place.

"I don't think there's going to be anybody at the ball park," Michael added. "People do not spend their time going to these games."

Multiple agencies are working on making this $40 million stadium possible, and they feel the 11 acres along Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive are ripe for development.

"It's probably the last piece of downtown property to be able to do this. A downtown stadium has been talked about for many many years," Journee told KTVB.

With the stadium would come a $60 million dollar privately funded mixed-use development. It would contain 300 new residences, 60,000 square feet of restaurants/retail, 120,000 square feet of office space, and a significant parking garage on site.

Journee says the development as a whole will be an added amenity downtown, with more economic opportunity.

"And at the same time to help revitalize a neighborhood that needs a little love," he added.

But let's talk about how this potential stadium will be paid for:

The developer, Greenstone Properties - owned by Boise Hawks co-owner Chris Schoen - is under contract to buy the land from St. Luke's Health System. The developer will then have to secure $100 million of private financing for the entire project up front.

After the developer shows that guarantee of financing, initial funders will reimburse them for the stadium: the City of Boise plans to pitch in $3 million from their general fund. They are expecting $5 million of lodging taxes from the Greater Boise Auditorium District (GBAD). The private park operator would contribute a $1 million and the developer would donate the land worth $4.8 million.

The last piece of the puzzle: the city's urban renewal agency, Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) is looking to create an entirely new urban renewal district encompassing the area, called the Shoreline Urban Renewal District. The remainder of the funds for the stadium would come from a 20-year bond that CCDC would secure.

According to CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle, the new district would include project and development areas in the Lusk Street neighborhood; along River Street from 9th Street to 16th; portions of underdeveloped property near the connector; and both sides of the Boise River including a length of Ann Morrison. It would be about 140 acres total.

"The stadium project area is contained within just 11 acres (+/-), so while it’s only a fraction of our planned Shoreline URD, it’s one very exciting possibility for that part of our more expansive district," Brunelle said in an e-mail to KTVB's Morgan Boydston.

"We think a stadium like the one being considered is a perfect catalyst project for that," Journee said. "It's going to the be a new center of gravity."

"The sports field, theoretically, would create a lot of vibrancy, create a lot of activity," CCDC Property Development Project Manager Shellan Rodriguez said.

City agencies say a projected result of the $100 million stadium and mixed-use development will be increased property values. Once the urban renewal district is formed, property taxes in the boundary would be frozen at that level.

"A baseline is set. That baseline is where any future tax increment generated after the baseline has been set would start coming back into the district," Rodriguez said.

"As properties within the district increase in value, the property taxes that would have normally gone to other taxing districts would then come back into the urban renewal district and help fund improvements, that then in turn increase property taxes, increase property values even more," Journee added.

Journee also says the partners in this project expect the tax increment financing that would come from the development alone "would be plenty to help pay of the CCDC bonds".

"Police, fire, the Boise School District - they don't get any more taxes out of that property," Michael said, "They don't cut their budgets. Property taxes has to be increased other places to pay for that."

The group says they are against another urban renewal district.

"I'm positive we're not going to get the increased values. That area is already being re-developed privately," Michael told KTVB. "It's not going to help downtown."

"Slow down, take a hard look at this type of sports arena. There's a long history of failures in this type of thing," Ilett added. "Even been some bankruptcies: City of Stockton, city of Hartford is close to taking bankruptcy. So it's just a matter we need to stop and take a look at this: Does this make good sense when there's so many other things we need?"

Ilett tells KTVB most sports teams have to build their own stadiums to be economically responsible. 

"Generally what you're doing is a favor for the city and it's usually local people trying to make their city better as opposed to what I'm seeing a little bit as developers in baseball uniforms," Ilett added.

But those pushing this development believe it's a home run.

"They know how to run a team," Journee added, "they have done this very successfully in other cities as well."

The city is aiming for the first pitch to be in 2020. City officials say the Boise Sports Park would likely be owned by CCDC for the next 20 years (the lifespan of the new urban renewal district), with the developer and his partners operating it. The teams who play there would pay rent. The City of Boise would then become owners of the sports park in 20 years.

The city is hosting three open houses for people to learn more and weigh in on the project. The first one is this Thursday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. at the Boise Centre on the Grove.

There are more details still being ironed out, so KTVB will continue to follow this.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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