Under a plan being pitched by city officials, a new downtown Spokane stadium could be constructed to host a professional soccer club and other events.
Ahead of November’s election, Spokane mayor David Condon is floating a proposal for a new downtown stadium that will require voter approval. The 5,000-seat facility would be open for high school football, along with a professional soccer club backed by deepRoot Sports & Entertainment, an entity led by Howard Cornfield, a former general manager of the bygone San Antonio Scorpions (NASL).
Cornfield mentioned both the USL and upcoming Canadian Premier League as possibilities for the proposed Spokane club, and believes that the city’s downtown is a good fit for professional soccer. More from The Spokesman-Review:
“They are not interested in being in the middle of a big sports complex, it just isn’t in their DNA for soccer,” Condon said. “They want urban fields.”
Condon has been meeting with San Antonio sports executive Howard Cornfield, who most recently has served as general manager for the now-defunct San Antonio Scorpions Football Club of the North American Soccer League. Cornfield said Tuesday that his company, deepRoot Sports & Entertainment, is interested in Spokane and one other city as a potential location for a new soccer franchise.
“The whole thing about soccer these days, is that the fans love meeting at the restaurants,” Cornfield said. “Spokane’s got a great downtown, it’s pretty, you’d be crossing over the river if you had a stadium downtown.”
The new club wouldn’t be affiliated with Major League Soccer, but there are other options for professional soccer in Spokane, including the United Soccer League (home to the Seattle Sounders FC 2 club in Tacoma and the Portland Timbers 2 club) or the Canadian Premier League, which will begin play next year, Cornfield said. Matches would be played on Saturdays, which would leave the field open for Friday night football contests in the fall, Condon said.
As noted, the project would be expected to be included in a referendum, but it remains to be seen how costs for the downtown stadium could be included on the ballot. It was discussed for a $505.3 million bond issue from Spokane Public Schools that is set to be considered by voters, with the new facility serving as a replacement for the existing Joe Albi Stadium. However, a different concept was discussed during a school board meeting on Wednesday. Rather than include it in its bond package, the school board could push the downtown stadium concept into the city’s separate $103 million bond issue that is also expected to go on the ballot.
That idea is not final, but it would effectively lower the public school’s bond package by $10 million while increasing the city’s bond issue by the same amount. More from The Spokesman-Review:
During Wednesday evening’s school board meeting, Rick Romero, the former city utilities director who has been guiding discussions with Spokane Public Schools on a bond issue that would give the city new middle schools and libraries, offered school board members a way out of their concerns about funding the project.
Instead of incurring an anticipated $10 million in additional costs for the stadium – costs that would be needed if it were built near Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, rather than replacing Joe Albi Stadium on its existing site – Romero told the panel the city could add the ask to its own bond measure.
“It feels like that partnership is getting stressed a little bit – and may even be more of a negotiation than a partnership – over what’s really just a small piece of this whole package,” Romero said….
The agreement would keep intact an understanding that the city would provide land for three new middle schools to reduce elementary school class sizes by shifting sixth-graders to other buildings beginning in 2021. It also would eliminate what Sue Chapin, chairwoman of the Spokane School Board, called “a dealbreaker,” which was the inclusion of the $10 million for a parking garage at the new stadium in a bond measure intended for education.
Ballot language is expected to be finalized at a joint meeting involving the school board, city, and Spokane Library board of trustees on August 1. How Spokane would fit into the professional soccer landscape remains to be seen, but it currently offers a sports scene that includes baseball’s Spokane Indians (Short Season A; Northwest League) and hockey’s Spokane Chiefs (Western Hockey League).
Image of USL action courtesy USL and Orange County SC.