Guest Opinions

City Hall officials should slow down and explore other ideas for stadium site

Rendering of a proposed sports stadium along Americana Boulevard in Boise.
Rendering of a proposed sports stadium along Americana Boulevard in Boise. City of Boise

We have been blessed by successful careers in business. Over the last several decades we have each invested successfully in people, in ideas and in companies critical to the growth of this economy.

Boise has been a big part of our success. The great quality of life also makes it a great place to do business. It is a good place to start a company, take a risk and try to grow a business.

That is why we are so disappointed – even alarmed – by the aggressive campaign from our city government to build a new baseball stadium with taxpayer money and the lack of specific detail about the finances.

It led to us forming the group Concerned Boise Taxpayers, a growing network of citizens and business owners who want city officials to slow down, be transparent and show more responsibility as stewards of our tax dollars.

No matter what proponents argue, the facts are clear: This project will be backed with public money, and that should concern all Boise citizens.

Other cities have tried this sort of project before. They either fail to live up to promises or the stadiums fail outright. In fact, there is universal agreement among respected economists that the promises of publicly backed stadiums are never fulfilled.

One economist says that if a city government has money to spend on a sports stadium, it would create more economic benefit by instead flying over that city and dropping cash from a helicopter.

At least that process would be transparent, unlike what we have seen from Boise City Hall. We join the vast majority of Boise citizens in being troubled by the city’s lack of transparency, limited public involvement and insistence on doing this project without a public vote.

When we met with Mayor Dave Bieter a couple of weeks ago to share our concerns about this project, he told us that there already had been a public vote – the one that put him into office.

That isn’t leadership, and it is certainly not the sort of transparent government the mayor promised when he was first elected.

Finally, all of us should be concerned by what we are losing because this project is going forward. Money is not unlimited and opportunities have a cost. Building a new baseball stadium with backing from taxpayers means that backing is not going to other, more worthy causes. The city has never asked its citizens what else they would like to see, and that is deeply troubling.

We urge all Boise residents to stop and think about what they would do with the millions of dollars public agencies are being asked to commit to this project. What do you think think this community needs? How about youth baseball fields, or perhaps a new soccer complex? What about a new downtown Boise YMCA, a world-class aquatics center or a new performing arts center? What about a meaningful solution to our homeless problem?

All of those add more to this community than a new facility for a private sports team. We are sure there are other ideas. We only hope the officials at City Hall will slow down, tap the brakes and explore them.

Gary Michael and Bill Ilett, longtime leaders in Boise’s business community, are the co-founders of Concerned Boise Taxpayers.