Metro March 15, 2018

A New Home for the Hawks?

Boise explores options for a downtown sports complex

The Boise Hawks baseball stadium has been located next to the Western Idaho Fairgrounds since 1989, and local critics of the space would probably tell you it looks like it still belongs in that era.

The stadium has undergone a few renovations over the years, but patrons still complain about uncomfortable metal seats, the dirt parking lot, the lack of transportation options to the stadium, and its vulnerability to baking-hot sun during the summer months.

All that may soon change if the city of Boise’s plans come together. After conducting a feasibility study and collecting public feedback in fall 2017, the City is exploring the possibility of building the Boise Sports Park near the downtown area that would host approximately 250 events per year and attract more than 200,000 people. Events would include baseball games, youth sports, Boise School District athletic events, and family events such as concerts and festivals.

“The idea of a downtown sports stadium of some type is one that’s been kicked around for several years now,” said Mike Journee, director of communications for the Boise mayor’s office. “(Mayor Dave Bieter) has been in office for 14 years now, and for probably a decade of that they’ve talked about having a stadium that would allow for major sports events.” And most of the time, those conversations have centered on making it a new home for the Boise Hawks.

Nic Miller, Boise’s director of economic development, said the City was approached by Greenstone Properties, a developer that has been successful building stadiums and associated private developments nearby. Miller said Greenstone Properties identified the 11-acre site where the stadium could potentially be placed, which is along Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard.

Rendering of location of stadium

Photo Courtesy Boise Hawks

“It’s an easy walk from City Hall, about a 10-minute walk, and it’s right along the Greenbelt, right along Americana coming down off the bench, and right next to the connector,” Miller said. “So, it has high visibility and easy access to our major thoroughfare coming into downtown.

The neighboring $60 million mixed use development space would include 60,000 square feet of retail space, 300 residences, 12,000 square feet of office space, and a new parking garage. The sports park is estimated to cost $36 million, financed in part by $5 million from the Boise Auditorium District, $3 million from the city of Boise’s general fund, and $1 million from the developer. The remaining $27 million is to be financed through bonds issued by the Capital City Development Corporation, which is Boise’s urban renewal agency.

Miller said the annual bond payment on that $27 million would be approximately $2 million, covered in two ways each year: about half through a lease payment payed by Agon Sports and Entertainment to the City, and the other half from tax-increment revenue.

“When an urban renewal district is formed, there’s a base year, and as values increase and tax revenue increases, the increment—which is an increase in tax dollars—goes to the urban renewal agency, and that money can be used to improve the area,” Miller said. “In this case, the developer that would be working in partnership with the stadium said he would guarantee no less than $67 million worth of development. That gets you to roughly $1 million in tax increment, and that’s how the bond payment gets made.”

The concept is still in its early stages, and there are also conversations happening that could change the stadium’s location. After the College of Western Idaho failed to secure a bond in 2016 that would have allowed them to move into a parcel of land close to the proposed stadium location, the City is discussing the idea of a land swap with the college that would allow them to immediately move into the space and the stadium to be placed on the land purchased by CWI.

“The mayor was immediately enamored with this, because it’s a two-fer, basically,” Journee said. “If we can make the stadium happen and the CWI campus downtown happen, then the benefit coming back to the community is that much greater.”

If the project is approved, construction is scheduled to begin in 2019 with a grand opening in 2020.

This article appears in the Spring 2018 Issue of Territory Magazine.