Stadium developer explains why he thinks model can work in Boise
A Downtown Boise stadium is starting to look like a reality.
Atlanta-based developer Greenstone Properties is inching closer to finalizing the purchase of 11 acres on the corner of Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard, where the stadium would go.
The city of Boise and urban renewal agency Capital City Development Corp. are building a case for the project. According to consultants they’ve hired, the south side of Downtown is ripe for a multisports stadium and event venue.
City Hall has commissioned Texas-based Conventions Sports and Leisure to study the feasibility of a Downtown stadium. CSL presented its study to the City Council on Tuesday.
A draft version of the study’s summary, acquired by the Idaho Statesman, is bullish. The consultant estimated a 5,000-seat stadium would draw more than 235,000 people a year to more than 200 events, including minor-league and college soccer and baseball games, as well as festivals, concerts and other activities.
Construction and operations of the stadium would generate almost $1 billion worth of investment and lead to the creation of 1,240 jobs over a 22-year period starting at groundbreaking, CSL’s study estimates.
In a City Council meeting Tuesday at City Hall, Mayor David Bieter asked CSL principal Jay Lenhardt how often the company determines that a proposed project isn’t feasible. Taylor said his company has analyzed about 1,800 projects over the past 30 years, and only about one-quarter of them were built.
Taylor later told the Statesman he didn’t know what percentage of those projects CSL would consider feasible. He did say he thinks the Boise project has a high chance of success due to the players involved and the market itself.
The chance to put a big attraction in the heart of Idaho’s biggest city shouldn’t be squandered, say people who are pushing for a new stadium.
“Eleven acres under control in Downtown, probably a 15-minute walk from (the city core) — we’re not going to see that again,” said Nic Miller, Boise’s economic development director.
A preliminary — and aggressive — schedule anticipates construction of the stadium will start late next year. It would be ready for Opening Day of spring 2020.
THE INDIANA PRECEDENT
Bieter, who has advocated for a new stadium as long as he’s been in office, said he’s more convinced now than ever that Downtown is the right place. He also believes Greenstone is the right company to make a Boise stadium happen.
Chris Schoen, Greenstone’s managing principal, is also managing partner of Agon Sports and Entertainment, which bought the Boise Hawks in 2015. Schoen and Greenstone built Parkview Field, a stadium in Fort Wayne, Ind., whose anchor tenant is the Class-A TinCaps. In May, they broke ground on a new minor-league baseball stadium in North Augusta, S.C.
Schoen plans a project in Boise that would mirror his work in Indiana and South Carolina. In addition to the stadium, he proposes private development that would include 300 apartments or condominiums; 120,000 square feet of office space; 60,000 square feet of restaurants, bars, gymnasiums and other retail space; and a 700-space private parking garage.
About 5,000 publicly available parking spots are within a 10-minute, or half-mile, walk of the proposed stadium, city leaders say. That number includes spaces in public parking garages and surface parking lots. It does not include spaces in private garages or lots that are not open for the public to use.
Bieter and Miller visited Fort Wayne on Sept. 6 and 7 to see Parkview Field for themselves. Bieter said he was impressed with the way Greenstone incorporated the stadium with the surrounding area, particularly the commercial and residential projects Greenstone built nearby.
He said the field is below the level of the ground outside the stadium, so most of the stands are just a floor or two above ground level. He said that makes the stadium appear less imposing.
“It makes it integrate into the neighborhood even better than I expected, and my expectations were pretty high,” Bieter said.
Bieter also liked the fact that Fort Wayne’s 8,100-capacity stadium is open to the public even when there are no games. People can’t go on the field, but they can jog or walk on a concourse that goes around it. Bieter said he wants the Boise stadium, if Greenstone builds it, to be open, too.
About a week after Bieter and Miller visited Fort Wayne, the TinCaps broke their seasonal attendance record, topping 415,000 fans throughout the 2017 season.
“What they told us is a pretty decent number of people go to the game and don’t watch it,” Bieter said. “It’s an event. They want to be in it. They want to be in the stadium. They want to be walking around and talking to people and doing stuff.”
Miller said Parkview Field hosts about 650 events per year. In addition to baseball games, he said, they include everything from concerts to weddings.
That kind of venue would revolutionize Downtown, Miller said, providing more event space and giving local businesses another asset to show off when they recruit workers. Youth sports organizers also like the idea of having a top-notch venue for championship tournaments, he said.
A lot of public groups, each with their own governing boards that must sign off, will have to back the stadium if it is to be built. The project’s anticipated cost is between $33 million and $45 million, according to the CSL study.
Schoen would have to finance both the stadium’s construction and the surrounding $60 million of private development, for a combined total of about $100 million, city spokesman Mike Journee said. He would be reimbursed after construction for the cost of the stadium.
The city would put up $3 million, according to a rough plan the stakeholders have formulated. The Greater Boise Auditorium District, which taxes hotel room rentals, would add $5 million. Greenstone would pay $1 million and donate the four acres where the stadium would be built.
Boise’s urban renewal agency would borrow the rest of the money.
The yearly payment on the URA’s debt would be about $2 million. The agency would cover half that cost by leasing the stadium to Agon for $1 million in 2020, with increases in subsequent years. Agon would then host Boise Hawks games and sublease the stadium to other groups. The city’s feasibility study predicts Agon could turn a healthy profit from ticket sales, concessions, sponsorships, parking, subleases and other income streams.
The other half of the URA’s yearly debt payment would come from property tax revenue generated by Greenstone’s commercial and residential development, as well as any other projects that come along. Schoen told the City Council on Tuesday that his private development likely would cost around $90 million, which would generate significantly more tax revenue. CSL used the $60 million figure to show what is needed to make the URA’s debt payments.
Schoen’s private development — and the tax money it generates — would be a requirement of any deal to build the stadium, said John Brunelle, executive director of the URA. Schoen would have to provide a way to cover the initial loan payments on the stadium, perhaps through an escrow account, in case the URA doesn’t receive its new tax money on time, Journee said.
“No tax money, no deal,” Brunelle said. “He has to perform.”
Once the stadium is paid off, which is expected to take 20 years, the URA would give it to the city of Boise.
Boise’s finance department is doing its own analysis of the stadium deal to make sure it will actually work like the parties involved are proposing, City Council President Elaine Clegg and Councilman Scot Ludwig said Tuesday.
The city must form a new urban renewal district to give itself the maximum 20 years to pay back bonds for the stadium.
In anticipation of that, the URA is studying if the area around the proposed stadium site is eligible under state law to be a new district. Again, the answer appears to be yes.
In a draft version of the study acquired by the Statesman, Chicago-based consultant SB Friedman Development Advisors concludes that the area between the Boise River, Americana Boulevard, River Street and Capitol Boulevard meets more than enough criteria to be a candidate for urban renewal. Those criteria include deteriorating buildings, a bad street layout and an overall lack of economic vitality.
Between 2012 and 2016, the SB Friedman study found, the taxable value of property in the study area increased 10 percent. By comparison, the rest of Downtown’s taxable property value increased 52 percent in the same time period.
The stadium can’t happen without the formation of the new urban renewal district, but the new district is likely to proceed with or without a stadium plan. The City Council directed the URA onTuesday to move forward on a formal plan for the new district.
The city, meanwhile, is working on a master plan for the River Street neighborhood, whose boundaries don’t match the proposed urban renewal district but overlap substantially.
Like the Downtown Boise stadium plan? Hate it? Have questions? Here are 3 chances to have your say.
The city of Boise plans three open house events to discuss a proposed Downtown sports stadium.
People who have questions about the stadium and its impacts, such as traffic and noise, are invited to attend. Here’s the schedule:
Oct. 5: 6-8 p.m., Boise Centre, 850 W. Front St.
Oct. 10: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Payette Brewing, 733 S. Pioneer St.
Oct. 16: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., City Hall Lobby, 150 N. Capitol Blvd.