Boise & Garden City

Expansion underway, GBAD turns to connection with existing Boise Centre

The Greater Boise Auditorium District won’t pay the owners of The Grove Hotel, CenturyLink Arena and Sports Zone bar for the right to turn the bar’s patio into a concourse for convention-goers.

Block 22, whose principals also own the Idaho Steelheads minor-league hockey team, and the auditorium district reached an agreement last month that will allow the district to build an enclosed connection between the existing Boise Centre building on the Grove Plaza’s southwest side and an expansion on the east side.

The connection is a big part of the district’s overall plan for growing and updating Boise Centre, its 25-year-old convention venue. The first phase is a new ballroom, kitchen, meeting space and pre-function space in City Center Plaza, a two-building project under construction next to the U.S. Bank tower. In some ways, giving convention-goers an intuitive, indoor path between buildings is more important than renovating the existing building, said Pat Rice, the district’s executive director.

So why isn’t Block 22 charging for the prime real estate it’s giving up?

The answer is a combination of business opportunity and altruism, Block 22 President John Cunningham said Monday. The concourse will have an entrance to Sports Zone, giving it more casual exposure than it receives now. That’s a good business move for an amenity Cunningham said Block 22 has sometimes underused.

To some degree, though, enabling the district’s growth is about doing the right thing for Downtown, he said.

“We’ve said it over and over: We’re excited about the convention center’s plan to expand on this footprint, in the Grove Plaza, and so we wanted to do whatever we could to help facilitate that and be supportive,” Cunningham said. “The better the experience is for any visitor or user of GBAD’s facilities, the better we all are.”

The district is just beginning to plan for the concourse, Rice said. Its floor is expected to be 24 feet above ground, Rice said. It will connect to the east side of the existing Boise Centre building’s main entrance area. Stairs, elevators and escalators will provide access.

Enclosed overhead bridges will cross the gaps between buildings above the Grove’s south and east spokes, Rice said. On its east side, the concourse will connect to a vestibule with lockable doors into the expansion’s pre-function space.

Rice said the district hired Atlanta firm TVS Design, which contracted Boise firm ZGA Architects and Planners, to design the concourse. He estimated it will cost $2 million to $3 million and hopes it will cause minimal disruptions to activities on the Grove Plaza. A construction timeline and financing details are still being worked out.