Downtown stadium developer plans to submit design documents in January-February

Teya Vitu//November 30, 2017

Downtown stadium developer plans to submit design documents in January-February

Teya Vitu//November 30, 2017

Boise Sports Park could have apartments overlooking left field, offices overlooking right field and a music venue beyond center field. Image courtesy of city of Boise.
Boise Sports Park could have apartments overlooking left field, offices overlooking right field and a music venue beyond center field. Image courtesy of city of Boise.

Terms of a master development agreement for a downtown Boise stadium and mixed-use commercial, housing and office complex at Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard should be in place by the end of the year, according to city officials and the developer.

This Boise Sports Park agreement would spell out conditions and guarantees regarding the private development and lease payments for the proposed stadium.

Atlanta developer Greenstone Properties proposes to build the 5,000-plus-seat stadium overlooked by a four-story, 60-unit apartment-and-retail structure and a 150,000-square-foot office building. Between Americana and the Boise River, Greenstone managing partner Chris Schoen wants to build 40,000 square feet of retail and 240 apartments.

Chris Schoen
Chris Schoen

The terms under negotiation include the donation of the stadium land valued at $5 million by Greenstone; proof of financing for the accompanying private development; and terms of how Greenstone would cover a gap if the taxes generated by the private development do not reach the required $1 million in annual tax revenue.

The objective is for Greenstone’s $1 million lease payment and the $1 million expected in taxes from the private development to pay the annual debt payments on the proposed $27 million public body to build the stadium, said Nic Miller, the  Boise economic development director.

The master development agreement would nail down a public-private partnership that would have Greenstone lease the stadium for 20 years. After that time, the city of Boise would take over stadium ownership.

Schoen is starting traffic, noise and lighting studies for the 11 acres at Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard that he is under contract to buy from St. Luke’s Health System.

Schoen expects to submit documents in January or February to start the zoning and entitlement process toward a building permit that will include several public comment periods. He wants to start construction on the stadium and office/apartment/commercial buildings in October or November to have a stadium ready for the 2020 United Soccer League season.

That timeline is realistic, Miller said.

He added that Schoen has met with neighborhood and business groups many times.

“He’s taking it on,” Miller said. “He knows what kind of opposition he’s facing. He’s talking to a lot of people in town.”

Miller anticipates a $27 million bond issued by the Capital City Development Corp. to finance stadium construction, estimated at $36 million. The parties are negotiating now to determine how much money Schoen will have to put forward before a bond is issued.

Schoen is proposing $60 million to $90 million in privately financed development around the stadium.

The city intends to commit $3 million to stadium construction. No official dollar figure is in play from the Greater Boise Auditorium District but it is anticipated the district will consider $5 million, and Schoen will pay $1 million.

“Probably at the end of December or first of January we will have a master development and stadium licensing agreement in concept,” Schoen said.

That would allow Schoen to make a deposit in excess of $1 million to secure a USL soccer team. USL is a 30-team minor league just one rung below Major League Soccer, the top U.S. professional soccer league.

Opposition and rebuttal

In an earlier interview, Sean Garretson, owner of Pegasus Development in Austin, Texas, questioned the feasibility of a 5,000-seat stadium and surrounding mixed-use office, residential and commercial complex at Shoreline and Americana. Garretson was hired by Concerned Boise Taxpayers, the most organized opposition to a publicaly financed stadium. The group is co-chaired by Gary Michael, former CEO of Albertsons, and Bill Ilett, former managing partner of the Idaho Stampede.

Sean Garretson
Sean Garretson

“As an urban planner, I love the concept. It’s just highly speculative and risky,” Garretson said in October. “What can the market support (in regard to the proposed housing, retail and office components)? It’s a question I have.”

Schoen intends to have some office and commercial tenant leases in place before construction starts.

“We already met with corporations to be in a position to do pre-leasing,” Schoen said.

The city of Boise conducted a public stadium survey online and at three open houses that drew 906 responses. City spokesman Mike Journee said 76 percent were positive feedback, 22 percent negative feedback and 2 percent neutral with 727 surveys turned in online, 152 at the open houses and 27 by email.

According to its website, Concerned Boise Taxpayers opposes the stadium project because Boise is overtaxed; the stadium bond is risky; there are stadium project problems elsewhere; “the demand isn’t there;” and there is an existing baseball stadium at the Ada County Fairgrounds. The group says it has 1,000 supporters between its email list, member list and Facebook followers.

The Concerned Boise Taxpayers and Garretson don’t see any certainty that the Boise Hawks baseball team, where Schoen is co-owner, and a potential United Soccer League high-tier minor league professional soccer team will be successful or that a soccer team is a certainty.

“Is it a given the Boise Hawks will have an attendance increase? I don’t know,” said Garretson, a former vice chairman of the Austin Urban Renewal Authority. “USL, they don’t have that. It’s very speculative.”

The USL and Schoen insist Boise is on track to get a USL team if a stadium is ready for 2020.

“We have a definitive agreement with the USL,” Schoen said. “We’re going to have to be able to prove to them we have a venue to play in.”

“Boise remains a desired market for the next and final phase of USL Expansion,” USL spokesman Leonard Santiago said in October.“At this time, USL approval primarily hinges on a successful outcome for the stadium development project under consideration.”

Critics contend a new stadium should be built where the existing Memorial Stadium is or somewhere closer to the center of the valley.  Critics believe the Boise Sports Park site is awkwardly located.

Schoen counters with the stadium’s location near the Boise River Greenbelt and half mile from Grove Plaza.

“The stadium is going to be attractive because it’s super easy to get to,” Schoen said.