Our View: GBAD making promising progress in shaping Boise's future

December 1, 2013 

Depending on your perspective, there is good news and bad news coming from one of our favorite government acronyms known for occasional acrimony: GBAD, the Greater Boise Auditorium District.

When last we visited this topic, we were considering the May 2013 GBAD board of directors election results. One slate of candidates was essentially running on, or with, the idea that the present board could not make a decision, that it suffered from disharmony and that it was unwise to bank on its function as merely a convention/event promoter through Boise Centre and other assets. Though new board members Steve Berch and Jim Walker never made promises other than to study things like multi-use sports facilities and performing arts venues, it has only taken the new board since June to determine such attractions, for now, are out of bounds.

After thorough studies of things like GBAD’s charter, criteria and economic realities, GBAD is fixed on its tried and true convention and event promotions.

Some might be disappointed that GBAD-funded sports venues won’t sprout up in 2014, but we commend the board’s honest reevaluation of what can and needs to be done. We think they are on the right track and we encourage them to stay there. Boise is not, and may never be, a top tier convention destination — but it has been a steady and productive performer.

“If everything comes together and meets the criteria ... I think we’ll have an expansion in two to five years,” said Hy Kloc, GBAD board chairman, referring to expanding the district’s capacity to host conventions. The board is still studying how and where the expansion could occur.

We agree that closing the Boise Centre for a couple of years to expand it upward is a risky and unattractive route. The board is more inclined to make use of downtown parcels it owns (between 11th, 13th, Front and Myrtle streets), find other sites, or look to identify a hotel partner and work on a joint structure. We think those are good ideas and only wish they would happen sooner rather than later.

Perhaps they can now that the board is working better together. For whatever reason, a somewhat divided board has been plagued by an inability to move forward in the past. Though “analysis paralysis” was a campaign slogan in May, we think it was more a case that the Treasure Valley convention business is more complicated and GBAD’s charter more restrictive than some had thought.

Nonetheless, present board members Kloc, Berch, Walker, Peter Oliver and Judy Peavey-Derr are moving in a unified direction, one that makes us think GBAD now stands for Good Business Addresses Disharmony and moves on.

There is a realization the district can take slow, steady steps to stay debt-free and be stewards of assets: $13 million in cash, bonding capacity for $20 million, strategically located land and an annual revenue stream of $2 million.

It is an exciting time and GBAD will be a player in shaping the future.

“We’ve come to appreciate the tremendous impact the convention and meeting business has on our local economy,” are the words of a joint letter signed by board members and delivered to media recently. “... Boise Centre makes a positive impact to our business climate here.”

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