Boise & Garden City

Boise considers town hall meeting on Downtown stadium

As Boiseans clamor for more insight on a proposed Downtown stadium, and opponents of the proposal accuse decision makers of backroom deal-making, the City Council and Mayor Dave Bieter say they want to hold a public meeting at which anyone could speak directly to them on the topic.

The meeting is not a sure thing yet. It likely would take place at City Hall in the coming months, perhaps as early as late November, city spokesman Mike Journee said.

Atlanta-based developer Chris Schoen wants to build a stadium near the corner of Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard for the Boise Hawks, the local minor league baseball team of which he is the managing partner; a future professional soccer team; youth sports; and other activities such as concerts and shows.

A proposal to fund the stadium calls for the city of Boise to contribute $3 million in cash toward the anticipated $40 million construction cost. Greater Boise Auditorium District, a separate government entity, would add $5 million.

Capital City Development Corporation, Boise’s urban renewal agency, would borrow the rest of the money. Schoen would build at least $60 million of private commercial and residential space next to the stadium. The renewal agency would use tax money from the private projects to pay back its loan.

The plan is for the loan to be paid off in 20 years, then the city of Boise would own the stadium and four acres underneath it outright.

The stadium has become a contentious issue in Boise. Opponents say the city, GBAD, the urban renewal agency and Schoen have been less than transparent about his proposal. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office is looking into an anti-stadium group’s suspicion that the auditorium district arranged illegal meetings between members of its governing body and Schoen.

The stadium town hall meeting, as it’s proposed, would be the first of its kind in recent Boise history. The council has held workshops on big projects such as an expansion of the St. Luke’s Downtown campus and Syringa Valley, a large residential development in Southwest Boise. Those meetings were open to the public but the public was not allowed to testify.

The city has not received an official application for the stadium project. Applications usually precede public hearings on items such as zoning classification changes, annexations and appeals.

People at the stadium town hall would be able to talk about their perceptions of whether a stadium is financially viable or feasible, Journee said.

Some topics might be off-limits, though. The city’s legal team is worried that discussions of environmental and land-use issues such as light, parking and traffic would lead to a perception that council members’ or the mayor’s impartiality had been compromised, Journee said. That would complicate their decisions if and when an application is filed.

The public would be able to testify on those issues during normal public hearings that accompany projects.