Opinion

Downtown Boise Stadium: Some say ‘play ball,’ others want more deal details

Stadium developer explains why he thinks model can work in Boise

Chris Schoen, of Atlanta's Greenstone Properties, explains how the lessons and path of mixed-use stadium projects in Fort Wayne, Ind., and North Augusta, S.C., could be templates for a $41 million stadium in Boise.
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Chris Schoen, of Atlanta's Greenstone Properties, explains how the lessons and path of mixed-use stadium projects in Fort Wayne, Ind., and North Augusta, S.C., could be templates for a $41 million stadium in Boise.

A column I wrote last week about the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board’s visit with backers of a proposed $41 million downtown Boise stadium got a lot of reaction form a wide range of readers.

Some not overly concerned about the financial details just want to play ball ASAP anywhere but at the present Memorial Stadium. Others say proceed with caution — but explain where everybody is going to park and give a sense of the impact on that Americana/Shoreline neighborhood. Still others sense this whole thing is half-baked and they wonder if all the backers will be paying their fair share, or whether taxpayers will get stuck with the bill a few years down the road.

Greenstone developer Chris Schoen, a co-owner of the Boise Hawks who would be a main player in the stadium, made good on a promise to share some links on how new or redesigned ballparks connected to mixed-use developments have helped transform downtowns such as Fort Wayne, Ind., Birmingham, Ala., and Tulsa, Okla.

Reader Jim McCabe suggested this kind of approach played well in Peoria: “. . I would urge anyone interested in this (stadium) to investigate the example of Peoria, where they left an old stadium in a run-down part of town and built a beautiful facility in city center. Peoria is smaller than Boise, but has a lot of similarities. They have been successful.”

Another reader, Kristin Stilton, wants to make sure all of the risk involved is shared and spelled out clearly before a deal is made. “Owner Participation Agreements (OPA) are included in approved planning projects regularly, and can offer some level of protection for Boise entities/partners.” She pointed to a more sour situation in Fresno, Calif., where the Triple AAA Fresno Grizzlies’ stadium (built in 2002) has been more of a financial burden than was originally advertised. Detractors sum it up as “too big, too expensive and would never fulfill its financial promise.” Though many still stand behind the decision to build it, the story states that “Bottom line: Fresno is picking up a much bigger share of the tab for repaying the $45.8 million cost of the stadium than the original 50-50 split envisioned. . .”

Reader Gary Greenlee said anything would be an improvement on the Hawk’s current home: “I have attended games at over 20 minor league ballparks, and I can think of only three that were as shabby as Memorial Stadium. Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, has since been replaced by a state-of-the-art downtown ballpark (Huntington Park). The Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats moved to Columbia, S.C., to play in a brand-new ballpark, leaving behind 90-year-old Grayson Stadium. And Oneonta, N.Y., lost its team to Norwich, Conn., which offered a newer stadium. My feeling is that Boise has two options: build a new stadium, as Columbus did, or risk losing the Hawks.”

Jerry Witt, who has seats behind home plate for the Hawks, is not opposed to a new location — particularly if it is as nice as Ron Tonkin Field where he visited and where league opponent the Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops will host the All-Star game this year. “They have a beautiful, newer stadium, the games were well attended, and the facilities added to the enjoyment. ”

Other readers see holes in the proposed new Boise stadium’s planning: “This is going to have a huge impact on traffic in and around the area and I’m curious exactly how they plan to deal with it, “ wonders Kathy Coops.

Reader Helen Hendricks is against putting it in the proposed “congested” location. “. . .it is too close to two lovely parks and the Greenbelt . All the noise and traffic is not conducive to relaxing activities that take place there.. . .l feel our mayor is far too willing to cooperate with big money and developers to make Boise a ‘great place to live.’ ”

Robert Ehlert: 208-377-6437, @IDS_HelloIdaho

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