Boise State University announced Thursday that it will have no involvement in a proposed Downtown Boise stadium, deciding instead to build its own stadium on or near campus.
“In the end, the question came down to the most efficient use of public dollars: It became clear that a long-term lease would be less financially prudent than a project that Boise State could either build or lease to own,” according to a BSU news release. “The downtown stadium project remained one of the options the university was pursuing until this week. University officials called city leaders and others to tell them personally of the decision.”
A future BSU baseball team was seen as an important tenant for a proposed Downtown stadium, which would serve as the home for the Boise Hawks, the local minor-league baseball team; a professional soccer team; youth sports; and other events, such as concerts and festivals. A BSU women’s soccer team was another possible tenant, but that won’t happen either, university spokeswoman Sherry Squires said Thursday.
In documents the Idaho Statesman obtained in May, Boise State had budgeted $400,000 annually for “facility usage” starting in the 2020-21 academic year.
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It’s unclear how BSU’s announcement Thursday will affect developer Chris Schoen’s proposal for a Downtown stadium northeast of the corner of American Boulevard and Shoreline Drive. Efforts to contact Schoen, who is also managing partner of the Hawks, were unsuccessful.
Boise City Councilman Scot Ludwig, who has enthusiastically advocated Schoen’s proposal, told the Idaho Statesman in July that the stadium project could happen without BSU, though the university would be a welcome tenant.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter agreed with that assessment.
“Boise State would have been a natural tenant for the Boise Sports Park, so we are disappointed to hear that Agon Sports and Entertainment and Boise State were not able to reach an agreement,” Bieter said in a statement released minutes after BSU’s announcement. “However, our independent analysis shows that the Boise Sports Park could be highly successful without Boise State as a tenant. We are excited by the continued interest of the Boise School District and the other possible users of the sports park and will move ahead with the process to ensure that the project is a good fit for its neighbors and for the city has a whole.”
A study commissioned by the city of Boise already examined the possibility of operating the stadium without BSU baseball. The study predicts its profitability would fall a few percentage points without BSU, but would remain above 8 percent. Failing to attract a professional soccer tenant would decrease revenue much more substantially, according to the study’s projections.
Capital City Development Corp. is moving forward with establishing a new urban renewal district in the area around the stadium, Executive Director John Brunelle said. The new district is a necessity for the stadium’s funding: CCDC would divert tax money from private developments that Schoen would build around the stadium, and use it to repay debts from the stadium’s construction.
“As far as if the stadium happens and who uses it — those are details to be worked out by other people,” Brunelle said in a voicemail Thursday.
Speaking to KTIK 93.1 FM later Thursday, Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said he’s not yet certain the cost of BSU’s solo stadium effort, nor where it would go. It will be “within a budget we can handle,” he said.
He did say an ideal stadium capacity would be between 1,000 and 5,000 spectators. The university will perhaps look for a spot that already has a BSU-owned building on it, he said.
Apsey said the hope still is for the university’s new baseball team to start play in 2020. Memorial Stadium in Garden City — where the Hawks play now — is a possibility, he said, but that conversation hasn’t been held.
Idaho Statesman reporter Dave Southorn contributed to this report.