Here’s where a new Boise stadium might go
The baseball stadium saga in Boise added another chapter Monday as Boise State announced that it has reignited talks with the owners of the Boise Hawks about potentially sharing use of a proposed stadium just west of Downtown.
The new Boise State baseball program, which begins play in 2019-20, and women’s soccer program would share the stadium with the Hawks minor league baseball team and a United Soccer League pro team if a deal can be completed.
“We are pleased with Boise State University’s renewed interest in being part of the Boise Sports Park,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter tweeted. “The time is right for such a project and we believe the university’s participation will make it more dynamic and could be the difference in it becoming a reality.”
The stadium would be built by Atlanta-based Greenstone Properties, with a projected price tag of about $50 million. Greenstone also would produce more than $100 million of development in the urban-renewal district surrounding the stadium to generate the tax dollars that would cover the bonds needed for construction. Chris Schoen is the managing principal of Greenstone and the managing partner of Agon Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Hawks and the rights to the USL team.
Greenstone initially planned a stadium along Americana Boulevard but has shifted focus to a site located on the south side of Main Street between Whitewater Park Boulevard and 27th Street.
“We’ve long hoped to partner with Boise State in the development of a first-class sports park that can serve as home to the Boise Hawks, USL professional soccer and BSU’s new baseball program,” Jeff Eiseman, president and partner at Agon Sports, said in a written statement provided to the Idaho Statesman. “There is no question we can build a terrific public amenity that will truly be a win-win for the entire community and Bronco Nation. Not only will it be a great place for Boise State athletics, but there are also the cost efficiencies that such a partnership would offer. While it’s too soon to discuss the fine points of the negotiations with Boise State, we certainly believe there is real potential for partnering with the university.”
Boise State announced in April 2017 that it would drop the wrestling program and pursue the addition of a baseball team. The school and Greenstone Properties were in discussions about a shared-use facility, but Boise State announced in October 2017 that it would not be part of the project.
Instead, the athletic department sought to build an on-campus stadium, but that project stalled. The baseball team plans to play at Memorial Stadium, the Hawks’ current home, when it starts competition next school year.
In a press release Monday, Boise State said that it has “outlined a series of requirements that university leaders say could provide the financial and logistical incentive to consider” joining the city of Boise and Greenstone on the project.
Greenstone’s project has been the source of some controversy because it relies heavily upon public urban-renewal money. The project faced some backlash for its first stadium site, a citizens group is trying to force a public vote on the stadium idea and the Legislature recently passed a law that could require a public vote.
“Boise State’s priority all along has been to build a first-class facility for our newly launched baseball program,” Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said in the university press release. “We want to make sure we thoroughly explore all of our options and make the best long-term decision for the university and our program.”
Apsey acknowledged in January the school had maintained conversations with the Hawks’ ownership.
In a “letter of requirements” document obtained Monday by the Idaho Statesman through a public-records request, Boise State requested a locker room dedicated solely to its athletes. The school asked that if games are scheduled at least 18 months in advance, it would receive priority for usage of the stadium, and that the facility would have artificial turf and a removable pitcher’s mound. (Memorial Stadium is grass.) Boise State also would keep nearly all of the revenue generated by its events and potentially be a part owner of the facility. Previous plans called for the city to own the stadium.
Representatives of the city of Boise and Greenstone approached Boise State about reviving their partnership while the university was working on the details for its on-campus stadium, according to the release.
When the school dropped out of discussions with Greenstone 18 months ago, it stated that it would make more financial sense to control its own facility than pay to use the Hawks’ stadium. Estimates are that a new stadium on campus, according to a recent Idaho Statesman report, likely would cost $10 million to $12 million.
According to the letter of requirements, Boise State would pay up to $360,000 annually for 25 years to use the new pro sports stadium.
“When they approached us again, we laid out our series of requirements for us to get involved,” said Joe Nickell, an associate athletic director at Boise State. “The question now is if all of those can be met, and if all of those can be met, I think that’s different than it was before.”
Bieter wrote a letter to Boise State Interim President Martin Schimpf dated March 15 to formally request proposed terms of a partnership.
“We will work with you to incorporate these into the project and bring this public-private partnership to fruition,” Bieter wrote in the letter, obtained through a public-records request.
Boise State submitted its letter of requirements just 13 days later as a five-page document. Highlights include:
▪ The facility would be managed through a “joint powers entity” between the city and Boise State, with the university holding at least 50 percent ownership.
▪ Boise State would hold approximately 25 spring baseball games, 12 fall baseball games and as many as 10 women’s soccer games at the venue each year. Its teams also would practice there.
▪ Boise State would be able to use Memorial Stadium for baseball through spring 2022, with rent payments applied as a credit toward its lease for the new stadium.
▪ The Hawks would be responsible for all maintenance and repairs inside the gates.
▪ The venue would have a weight room. Some facilities, such as the showers and training room, would be shared by the host teams but Boise State would have a locker room and equipment area for its exclusive use. Those facilities would be included in the project and not paid for by Boise State.
▪ Boise State would retain all ticket revenue from its events except possible commissions if it chooses not to staff the box office.
▪ Boise State will not “co-sign or otherwise be obligated on any loan or mortgage.”
Boise State has acquired land for the potential on-campus stadium. That land would be used for other university needs if the baseball stadium isn’t built, Nickell said.