A meeting last week raised the possibility that the Atlanta developer of a proposed Boise sports stadium may seek a different way to finance it with borrowed public money.
Greenstone Properties, which first proposed the baseball and soccer stadium two years ago, has been silent for the past year as it worked behind the scenes to get the project off the ground. On Thursday, a Boise lawyer representing Greenstone met with the board of the Greater Boise Auditorium District to begin discussions.
The lawyer, Geoffrey Wardle, would not say what the discussions are about. Neither did anyone at GBAD. But GBAD is legally authorized to build and operate sports stadiums. The district says its mission is to promote growth and economic development in the Boise area, and it has more than $16 million in cash on hand to invest in whatever its elected board wants.
GBAD also can sell bonds to raise money for the stadium. Local-government bond sales have been part of Greenstone’s plans to help pay for the $50 million stadium all along. But Greenstone previously expected to turn to Boise’s urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corp., for that.
A new state law this year threw a possible wrench into that part of Greenstone’s plan by requiring a citywide election on any municipal building project costing more than $1 million which uses at least 51 percent nonfederal public money that includes any amount of urban renewal money.
Greenstone already had hoped to tap GBAD for a $5 million contribution. The lack of disclosure so far by either Greenstone or GBAD means it is not known whether GBAD could pay more than that, take over the bond sales that CCDC would have made, or build and operate a stadium itself, but its legal authority and cash position suggest those possibilities.
After it voted to open discussions with Greenstone, the GBAD board went into an executive session, closed to the public, to discuss “an interest in real property which is not owned by a public agency.” Wardle attended that meeting but declined to comment on what was discussed.
The project, dubbed the Boise Sports Park, is planned between Main Street and Fairview Avenue and between 27th Street and Whitewater Park Boulevard, west of Downtown and near the Boise River. It would serve the Boise Hawks baseball team, whose ownership is intertwined with Greenstone’s. It also would house a franchise of the new United Soccer League, which is expected to begin play in 2021.
Greenstone plans to develop housing and businesses around the stadium. Its original plan included using increases in property tax revenues caused by that new development to pay off the bonds CCDC would sell in the urban renewal district that includes the stadium site.
While that part of the plan remains unclear, Wardle told GBAD that any development in the West End would still require CCDC to play a role. The agency traditionally fosters development in urban-renewal districts by helping developers pay the cost of infrastructure, streetscapes and other improvements, though not the cost of their buildings.
Wardle said the developer has secured rights to properties it will need for the stadium, though he didn’t say for all of them.
GBAD gets its money from room taxes on hotels within the district boundaries, which cover most of Boise and areas of Garden City, Eagle and Meridian. The city of Boise may also contribute money to the stadium.
The stadium at first was going to be built on the corner of Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive, but Chris Schoen, the Greenstone partner leading the stadium effort, announced in July 2018 that he would instead build it in the West End. No formal proposal has been put forward publicly on the stadium in its new location.
“We recognize everyone’s really anxious and want to see and hear what’s going on, but we have to have discussion with staff and counsel,” Wardle told the GBAD board.