A new stadium proposal might offer College of Western Idaho a way out of a looming rent hike, but the college and other stakeholders haven’t decided whether they like the deal.
Under the proposal, CWI would give up a 10.3-acre lot it owns between Main Street, Whitewater Park Boulevard, Quinn’s Pond and the Boise River in the area known as Boise’s West End. In exchange, it would receive some of the property between Americana Boulevard, Shoreline Drive, 14th Street and Spa Street — where developer and Boise Hawks owner Chris Schoen wants to build a stadium.
CWI President Bert Glandon said he first heard the proposal when Boise Mayor Dave Bieter called him about 11 a.m. Tuesday. The college’s board of trustees found out a few hours later.
“It’s a great idea to kick around,” Glandon said. “I think (the board) would be tickled to death to be involved in a conversation about what might happen.”
Between 2019 and 2022, leases will expire on five buildings CWI has occupied near the corner of Overland and Maple Grove roads in Ada County, Glandon said. The college signed those leases between 2009 and 2011 — in the thick of the Great Recession — and got rock-bottom prices, Glandon said.
“I mean, we got deals,” he said. “All you’ve got to do is look around at real estate today anywhere, and you’ve got to know we’re not going to be paying the same rate that we agreed to in 2009, ’10, ’11.”
CWI asked voters last year to pass a $180 million bond for, among other items, a new campus on the Main and Whitewater Park site. The bond failed. It required a two-thirds majority. Only 57 percent voted for it.
That left CWI in a bind. Without money for a new Ada County campus, the school must find a way to pay to keep its doors open in Ada County. That has college leaders worried.
“I don’t think ‘concern’ would cover it,” Glandon said.
St. Luke’s Health System owns the Shoreline-Americana property, including a building that once housed a Kmart and now is used for St. Luke’s office space. Glandon said he doesn’t know if the building would work for classes and other college activities, because he hasn’t been inside it.
If only minor improvements were needed, CWI could start holding classes there within a year or two.
The new stadium proposal might resolve some of the controversy over Schoen’s initial plan. Since the first proposal became public, neighbors have complained about possible light, noise, parking, traffic congestion and other complications.
The West End is less developed than the Downtown core and Crescent Rim, which surround the stadium on the north and south sides, so environmental impacts from a stadium would be less of a concern. Easy connections to the Interstate 184 Connector would make access to West Boise and the rest of the Treasure Valley much easier.
St. Luke’s is one of several organizations that would have to sign off, and that’s no sure thing.
“What I can tell you is that the Shoreline property is under contract with Greenstone [Schoen’s company] and we are working to conclude the transaction,” St. Luke’s spokeswoman Anita Kissee said in an email.