Public and private entities have their sights set on having a downtown stadium ready for Boise Hawks baseball and professional soccer by 2020.
The Boise City Council on Sept. 26 instructed city staff to assemble a financial and legal framework to establish a public-private partnership with Atlanta-based Greenstone Properties. Greenstone managing director Chris Schoen proposes building an 11-plus-acre complex of offices, residential and retail anchored by 5,000-plus-seat Boise Sports Park.
The Capital City Development Corp. expects to create a new Shoreline urban renewal district late in 2018 that would include the Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard area where the Boise Sports Park stadium is proposed. The urban renewal district would be the source of bond financing for the estimated $40 million stadium, and CCDC would own the stadium until the bond is paid off, CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said.
Schoen hopes to have a public-private partnership in place with the city by November, at which time a deposit of ore than $1 million is due to land a United Soccer League team for Boise. USL President Jake Edwards has indicated a keen interest in having a Boise team.
Schoen hopes to start stadium construction in a little over a year, with the stadium opening in 2020. Boston-based International Stadia Design is designing the Boise Sports Park to be configured for both baseball and soccer.
Schoen also is co-owner of the Boise Hawks, but he and Hawks co-owner Jeff Eiseman are even more bullish about soccer. Atlanta-based Agon Sports & Entertainment is the ownership entity for the Hawks and Augusta Greenjackets minor league baseball team in Georgia.
“We really think that’s the best (soccer) league we can bring to the market,” Schoen said. ”Soccer is growing up nationally. Boise has seen some of that.”
Schoen cited the three high-profile Treasure Valley soccer matches in the past two years: The Basque Friendly that filled Albertsons Stadium with Idaho’s first international soccer match in 2015; The Portland Timbers T2 minor league soccer match that filled to overflowing the Rocky Mountain High School stadium in Meridian in 2016; and the indoor soccer match featuring the U.S. national arena soccer team that sold out CenturyLink Arena in August even with the game announced just days before kickoff.
“I think soccer is going to be more successful than baseball,” Schoen said. “Soccer fans can be rabid. We can image a procession marching from downtown to the stadium.”
Schoen’s initial concept proposes a stadium with variable seating from 5,000 to 6,500 seats.
“It’s really built for soccer and it’s also built for baseball,” Schoen said.
He initially plans a four-story structure at the left field wall with retail facing the stadium and the street and 60 apartments above. In the soccer configuration, this building would be behind a goal.
In right field, Schoen plans a 150,000-square-foot office building.
The stadium would be built on the site of a former Kmart that is now home to the St. Luke’s Business Center at Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard. Schoen is under contract to purchase 11 acres from St. Luke’s Health System including properties on both sides of Shoreline, Americana and Spa Street.
Between Americana and the Boise River, Schoen expects to build 40,000 square feet of retail and 240 apartments.
Schoen made presentations of the initial conceptual plan to the Boise City Council, Greater Boise Auditorium District and Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce during the last week of September.
“These plans will change,” Schoen stresses, reminding audiences these are early conceptual idea. “We are still in the planning stages.”
The city of Boise brought on Jay Lenhardt, principal at Dallas-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL), to do an independent study on the Boise Sports Park. CSL did a stadium study for Boise in 2011 but no project was on the table at that time. CSL previously did studies for the Boise Centre East expansion and the Stueckle Sky Center at Albertsons Stadium.
“We strongly suggest this is a project worth pursuing,” Lenhardt told community leaders. “The facility will help ensure long-term viability of the Boise Hawks. It will also help secure a professional sports franchise.”
Greenstone has experience mixing stadiums with retail, office, residential
Agon Sports and Entertainment bought the Boise Hawks baseball team in 2014 with the firm acknowledgment that a new stadium would have to be built.
Agon partners Chris Schoen and Jeff Eiseman – through Schoen’s Greenstone Properties – are now building a similar mixed-use stadium, office, retail complex in North Augusta, Georgia, for the other minor league baseball team they own, the Augusta Greenjackets.
Schoen in a prior partnership built a baseball stadium in a mixed-use setting in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Prior to joining Greenstone Properties, Schoen was CEO at Barry Real Estate Companies in Atlanta from 1996 to 2010 and Hardball Capital from 2005 to 2011. The latter company owned the baseball teams in Fort Wayne, Salem, Virginia; and Savanna, Georgia.
While at Barry, Schoen developed the 29-story Pinnacle at Symphony Place in downtown Nashville in 2010; the 28-story W Hotel in Alan Plaza in Atlanta with 237 hotel rooms and 76 residence that opened in 2008; and the 11-story One Federal Place office building in Birmingham, Alabama in 2002. In Fort Wayne in 2009, Schoen developed the 6,500-seat Parkview Field that is part of the Harrison Square mixed-use development. The project includes a 249-room hotel and a four-story residential-and-office building overlooking left field in the stadium. Boise Mayor David Bieter, city economic development director Nic Miller, Capital City Development Corp. Commissioner Dana Zuckerman and Derick O’Neill, director of Boise Planning & Development Services, visited Fort Wayne in early September.
In North Augusta, construction recently started on the 4,300-seat SRP Park set to open in April. The stadium is part of the $195 million Project Jackson, a Greenstone development that includes a 180-room Crown Plaza hotel, 280 apartments and 24 additional units overlooking the stadium’s left field, a 125-unit senior living building, 72,000 square feet office, and 50,000 square feet retail, restaurant and a 1,558- space garage.
Boise Sports Park is set to share many of these features, including the apartments in left field. There is no hotel in this preliminary Boise proposal. But Schoen is trying to acquire neighboring property beyond the 11 acres of St. Luke’s property that he has under contract. “We’ve got to acquire a little more land (to do a hotel),” said Schoen, adding he’s had conversations with hotel operators. “It’s a really high quality hotel that has visited Boise a couple times in the past.”
Who holds the bag?
If Agon Sports and Entertainment falters in the years after a stadium opens and walks away from the Boise Sports Park, does the stadium sit empty with nobody paying back the bond?
That’s not likely to happen, said Chris Schoen, managing member of Agon Sports and co-owner of the Boise Hawks.
The Boise Hawks are affiliated with the Major League Baseball Colorado Rockies franchise, and the Rockies have part ownership in the Hawks. This is the first time the Major League team has had a vested interest in the Hawks, noted Bill Connors, CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Schoen will have to win a number of local government approvals before stadium construction starts. But Schoen added he will also need Class A Northwest League to sign off on the plan, as well as Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.
“If something were to happen (to Agon), the league would take over operations of our team,” Schoen said. “(One of them) would operate the team.”
There is precedent for this. The faltering Montreal Expos were owned by Major League Baseball before the team moved to Washington, D.C., in the 2000s.
Connors at the Boise Chamber has championed a downtown baseball stadium for the past eight years as a member of Better Boise Coalition. The coalition had an artistic rendition drawn up for a stadium but never gained momentum.
“I think there is a lot more there than we’ve seen in the past,” Connors said about Schoen’s proposal. “We’ve never seen the parent organization (the Major League team) have a vested interested. We haven’t had a development group this experienced.”
The stadium appears headed toward financing from a bond acquired by the Capital City Development Corp. Early talks between the city, CCDC and Schoen detailed a $1 million a year lease with Agon Sports to operate the stadium.
Boise City Council member Scot Ludwig said debt service on the bond likely would be $2 million a year. Agon’s $1 million lease would pay half and $1 million in estimated taxes generated by the Boise Sports Park property could pay the other half.
“In a beautiful world, they pay all the debt service,” Ludwig said about the Greenstone development.