Cities look for ways to provide more soccer fields

Soccer players.
Soccer players. About 16,000 youth play soccer statewide in Idaho, and officials in several cities are looking for ways to provide more soccer fields. File photo.

Soccer is huge in Idaho, among kids and adults.

Even the Portland Timbers professional soccer team in Major League Soccer appreciates the soccer talent in Idaho. The Timbers have claimed Idaho as its development territory for potential players and in May 2016 affiliated themselves with youth soccer associations in Boise (Boise Nationals Timbers) and Coeur d’Alene (Sting Timbers FC).

Some 9,000 youths play organized soccer in the Treasure Valley, with 16,000 playing statewide. Adults have about 6,000 players in affiliated and unaffiliated leagues with leagues affiliated with Idaho State Soccer Association active in Boise, Twin Falls, Wendell, Gooding, Caldwell, Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene.

Yet playing the game, let alone soccer practice, is largely an improvised pursuit.

The 20field Simplot Sports Complex and 10field Optimist Youth Sports Complex in Boise is for youth soccer games only. No practice allowed. No adult soccer allowed. There is also the 20-field Nova FC Soccer Complex in Meridian for youth soccer.

square-feet-april-story-blurb“Our biggest need right now are practice fields,” said Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Recreation. “There aren’t enough spaces for all the practice needs for all of the club teams. At Ann Morrison there’s no room available to practice. It’s wall-to-wall kids playing soccer.”

The Sting Timbers FC youth soccer organization in Coeur d'Alene has leased 9.9 acres to build Idaho's only indoor soccer facility. The property came with a house that now serves as the Sting Timbers office. Photo courtesy of Sting Timbers FC.
The Sting Timbers FC youth soccer organization in Coeur d’Alene has leased 9.9 acres to build Idaho’s only indoor soccer facility. The property came with a house that now serves as the Sting Timbers office. Photo courtesy of Sting Timbers FC.

Holloway noted the eight Ann Morrison soccer fields also double for lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee.

Soccer organizations clamor for more soccer facilities. Nothing is on the immediate horizon in the Treasure Valley.

Coeur d’Alene, however, is on the verge of building the first indoor soccer facility in Idaho – also the only new soccer facility in the works across the state right now, said Craig Warner, executive director of Idaho Youth Soccer Association.

Sting Timbers FC, the largest youth soccer organization in north Idaho, is leasing 9.9 acres on an unincorporated patch across the street from Hayden in one direction, Coeur d’Alene in another direction and within the Post Falls area of impact.

“It’s right in the middle of the valley,” said Mike Thompson, technical director at Sting Timbers FC, which has 430 youth players and 31 teams.

The property came with a three-bedroom house that Sting Timbers converted into the league office in March 2017.

The plan is to build a 12,000- to 13,000-square-foot structure for a reduced size soccer field of about 60-by-20 yards. along with three full-size outdoor artificial turf soccer fields at 120 yards long and 75 to 80 yards wide.

“We’re looking at this as a community facility open to any and all sports,” Thompson said. “We will use the majority of it for soccer, but we will carve out time where we have it available to the community (for lacrosse or football).”

Targeting the larger community assists in raising the $1.5 million to building the complex. Thompson said the “Field for All Seasons” campaign is close to reaching the $250,000 deposit, which enables the organization to start the permitting process. He figures permitting would start in December or January.

He said so far the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is the major donor and the indoor complex will bear the tribe name.

John Eixenberger of Coeur d’Alene is the architect. Mongan Construction Services of Coeur d’Alene is the general contractor, an Steel Structures of America in Post Falls is supplying the steel structure.

The structure would have a garage door at one end, restrooms, and a viewing area for spectators.

North Idaho soccer moves indoors from the start of November to March, competing with volleyball, and basketball for space at gyms, fairgrounds and churches. This, obviously, is hardwood or concrete practice. The indoor soccer facility would give soccer players an actual soccer field in winter.

“It just allows more kids to do something year-round that they doing in a soccer-specific facility,” Thompson said.

Treasure Valley dreams of more soccer fields

Boise Parks and Recreation has 48 soccer fields for youth and adult soccer, all abundantly used by thousands of soccer enthusiasts of all ages.

Don’t expect more soccer fields in Boise any time soon.

Boise Parks and Rec and the Idaho State Soccer Association see one partial solution: the undeveloped 157-acre Murgoitio Park site south of Victory and Maple Grove roads.

Those are the only planned soccer fields in Parks and Rec master plan, but developing the park is uncertain. The property is outside the city limits, which are a half mile away. Murgoitio can be built only when the city limits reach the property, Holloway said.

Adult soccer relies on the 18 Boise Parks and Recreations fields at Ann Morrison, Fairmont, Ivywild, Molenaar, Sunset, Winstead, Willow Lane and Shoshone parks.

“Southern Idaho Soccer League has 70 teams but could field 30 more teams if more fields were available,” said Paul Scherer, president of Idaho State Soccer Association, the adult soccer association. “The dream scenario would be to have 20 more fields but we could deal with 12.”

Even more youth soccer is going on.

“On any given Saturday, there are 150 games,” said Craig Warner, executive director of Idaho Youth Soccer Association.

An alternative to marked soccer fields is large enough open spaces in parks where soccer practices can take place.

Pine Grove and Magnolia parks, both under construction, and Sterling and Franklin parks, construction starting in March on both, all have open space suitable for soccer, Holloway said.

Bill Taylor, president of Idaho Youth Soccer Association, has his eye on Sterling and Franklin.

“Yup, for sure,” Taylor said. “They will all be utilized as soon as they are available.”

Taylor, also a soccer coach, maintains the grass behind Rocky Mountain High School for his team to use. He mentioned another church site that is used for soccer practice that feels like a “third world” site.

Some residential developments have incorporated large greenspace capable to field soccer. Brighton Corp. has large green spaces in several developments, and developer Tim Eck is building three dedicated soccer field for different age groups into his Fallbrook development in Star.

The soccer community is aware of the Star development.

“If you have a field with two goals, I guarantee you within a week there will be kids kicking a soccer ball,” said Craig Warner, executive director of Idaho Youth Sports Association. “Any development with a soccer field spreads the wealth. It gives people a place to practice and play. There’s always a fight for where to play.”

One soccer field takes up two acres.

“It makes more sense to upgrade and refurbish Simplot than build a new soccer complex,” said Taylor, who offered an alternative to a formal soccer complex: “May it really cheap, do a turf farm, 60 acres. You have two or three at 20 acres, where people can train.”

Then Taylor brought up the true obstacle to adding soccer facilities in the Treasure Valley: “But it’s not realistic because of the cost of land.

Adult soccer relies on Boise Parks and Rec fields, though the Southern Idaho Soccer League did give Parks and Rec $126,000 to build three soccer fields at Molenaar Park .

“I don’t have a rich uncle and we don’t seem to have anyone else who does either,” Scherer said about the prospects of adult soccer organizations building their own soccer complex.



Idaho has Top 10 fastest-growing U.S. cities from north to south

Patrons dine at Crafted in downtown Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Monday, June 19, 2017.
Patrons dine at Crafted in downtown Coeur d’Alene in June. The northern Idaho city is the No. 5 fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Five Idaho cities made various Top 10 fastest-growing metropolitan and micropolitan area lists released March 22 by the U.S. Census Bureau in the wake of the bureau’s December announcement that Idaho is the No. 1 fastest-growing state.

Coeur d’Alene and Boise have the No. 5 and No. 7 spots, respectively, as the fastest- growing metropolitan areas in the country in terms of percentage growth.

Coeur d’Alene’s metro area grew by 2.9 percent in 2017 with about 4,000 additional residents.  The city was ranked No. 15 in 2016, according to the Census Bureau.

The six-county Boise metro area increased 2.8 percent to 709,845 in 2017 after ranking No. 17 in 2016. Bend, Oregon, ranked No. 4 on the same list, but it dropped from No. 3 the prior year. St. George, Utah; Myrtle Beach, Florida, and Greeley, Colorado are ahead of Bend.

Among micropolitan areas with urban clusters of less than 50,000 people, Twin Falls ranked No. 4 in population increase by number of residents with 1,958 new residents in 2017. Twin Falls has grown enough that the federal Office of Management and Budget in October elevated the city to a metropolitan area in August.

The Montana cities of Kalispell and Bozeman made the same list as Twin Falls.

Sandpoint and Mountain Home are listed in the Top 10 fastest-growing micropolitan areas by percentage at No. 7 and No. 9, respectively, or 2.9 percent and 2.8 percent. Sandpoint was No. 17 in 2016 and Mountain Home No. 53. Sandpoint

“We’re not totally shocked but pleasantly surprised (to be on the Top 10 list),” said Courtney Lewis, Mountain Home’s economic development director. “Mountain Home is on the radar. A lot of people don’t want to be in metropolitan areas.”

Lewis said Mountain Home doesn’t have enough housing, especially affordable homes.

Boise Valley Economic Partnership officials say the Treasure Valley’s continuing growth has worked in the region’s economic favor.

“Even with the growth we’ve had, wages are going up and the quality of jobs are going up,” said Clark Krause, BVEP’s executive director. He noted a shift to more new high-paying jobs now than in 2010, when low-cost labor was sought by companies moving to Boise.

Krause and Ethan Mansfield, BVEP’s project and research manager, noted that new Boise residents tend to be highly educated and of all age groups. Mansfield said nearly 50 percent of net migration to the Boise metro is people between the ages of 20 and 40.

Idaho’s startup hub? Turns out it’s Coeur d’Alene

A look at Sherman Ave. in downtown Coeur d'Alene, in July 2017. File photo.
A look at Sherman Ave. in downtown Coeur d’Alene in July 2017.  The northern Idaho city on a lake is Idaho’s startup capital, according to the Brookings Institution. File photo.

What’s the metropolitan startup hub of Idaho? Turns out it’s Coeur d’Alene.

That’s according to the Brookings Institution, which recently examined the Inc. 5000 list of startups nationwide. Brookings looked at the cities with the fastest growth and made geographic conclusions, such as how many startups were in each city and the startup density for each city, by dividing the number of startups by the population.

By that reckoning, with its 17 startups and population of 139,501, Coeur d’Alene has the densest concentration of startups among Idaho metropolitan areas, with 121.9. It’s followed by Idaho Falls with nine startups and a density of 68.6, Boise with 40 startups and a density of 64.3, and Pocatello with one startup and a density of 12.

“Four years ago, we set out to create Coeur d’Alene to be just that place where startups could flourish,” said Chris Cochran, chief operating officer for the Innovation Collective, a Coeur d’Alene incubator that he calls an “economic transformation agency.” The organization has 77 free events a year for entrepreneurs, ranging from monthly “fireside chats” to semimonthly “coffee and concepts” discussions that let local entrepreneurs share stories and ask for help. Out of that group, “we’ve seen nine LLCs formed in the past three years,” he said.

How did Coeur d’Alene do it? By deciding to focus on artificial intelligence and robotics, Cochran said.

photo of chris cochran
Chris Cochran

In addition, Coeur d’Alene passed an ordinance that made it the first city in the world to allow the public free use of robots on any piece of public property with the same rights as human beings, Cochran said. Starship Technologies, an Estonia-based robot delivery company founded by two co-founders of Skype, accordingly tested its products in Coeur d’Alene, he said.

photo of coeur d'alene's innovation collective
Coeur d’Alene’s Innovation Collective. Photo by Nathan Frisk.

Now, Coeur d’Alene has an annual robotics festival with more than 1,000 attendees and 25 experts flown in from companies ranging from “organizations nobody’s ever heard of” to giants such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, Cochran said. The city also has an “Innovation Den,” a 36,000-square-foot facility with 37 offices that were full from opening day, a University of Idaho computer program, a private club, and a coffee shop “with 50 to 60 people in it right now,” he said.

Startups aren’t limited to big cities, according to the Brookings data. In Idaho’s micropolitan areas, defined as those with a population of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000, there’s Hailey with five startups and a density of 181.3, Moscow with four startups and a density of 108.9,  Burley with two startups and a density of 45.9, Twin

Jay Larsen
Jay Larsen

Falls with three startups and a density of 29.6, and Sandpoint with one startup and a density of 24.4.

Of course, there are many other ways to look at the Brookings numbers. “North Idaho and Coeur d’Alene have some really good startups,” said Jay Larsen, president and CEO of the Idaho Tech Council, which is based in Boise.  “Almost half of Idaho startups

A view of Lake Coeur d'Alene from Tubb's Hill in July. Monday, June 19, 2017.
A view of the 50-square-mile Lake Coeur d’Alene from Tubb’s Hill in July. File photo.

are in the Treasure Valley area,” which also has 60 percent of the state’s population, he noted.

There isn’t really any way to count Idaho startups that would make Idaho cities come out in the top nationwide. The top five metropolitan areas for fast-growth density are Boulder, Colorado; Provo, Utah; Washington, D.C.; Huntsville, Alabama; and Austin, according to Brookings.

Idaho as a whole comes out with a total of 84 startups for a density of 53.6. The highest is the District of Columbia with 255 startups and a density of 416.9 and the lowest is Alaska with 6 startups and a density of 8.5.

Coeur d’Alene can still find construction workers, barely

The Innovation Collective's renovation of century-old building is one of many construction projects in the Coeur d'Alene region. Photo courtesy of Innovation Collective.
The Innovation Collective’s renovation of a century-old building is one of many construction projects in the Coeur d’Alene region. Photo courtesy of Innovation Collective.

As Idaho and its cities struggle with a construction labor shortage, Coeur d’Alene remains the shining light in adding construction jobs. The metro ranked No. 33 among the nation’s 358 metropolitan areas in December in job growth, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

Coeur d’Alene added 500 construction jobs in December compared to the prior December to reach 5,200 or an 11 percent increase. The northern Idaho metro area has frequently ranked in the 30s on the AGC’s list in the past two years.

“There’s a lot of everything: residential, commercial and industrial construction,” said Leslie Streeter, executive director of the North Idaho Building Contractors Association.

The Coeur d’Alene population grew 13.9 percent from 2010 to 2016 and Kootenai County grew 11.4 percent, while Ada County grew 13.2 percent and Canyon County grew 12.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Boise and Lewiston, however, both with No. 1 fastest construction job growth percentages since 2016, languished in December at No. 267 and No. 348, respectively, with a 1 percent gain in Boise and 6 percent loss in Lewiston, a city where major projects by the largest employers have recently wrapped up.

Idaho Falls ranked No. 223 with a 3 percent construction job gain and Pocatello No. 340 with a 5 percent loss. Idaho as a state, also a former frequent Top 5 state in construction job growth in recent years, only ranked No. 36 of 50 in December with 2.6 percent job growth, according to AGC’s analysis of U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Construction leaders universally attribute the hiring slowdown to a shortage of available qualified construction workers. Even Coeur d’Alene is being held back in construction job growth.



Coeur d’Alene fills long-empty historic Montgomery Ward building

The Wiggett building in downtown Coeur d'Alene as seen in May 2017. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The Wiggett building in downtown Coeur d’Alene as seen in May 2017. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Sitting empty since 2006, the original four-level brick Montgomery Ward building in downtown Coeur d’Alene will be largely filled up by tenants by the end of summer.

Three Coeur d’Alene businesses teamed up to buy the 27,000-square foot Wiggett Building – as the building at Lakeside and Fourth Street has been known for decades – for an undisclosed amount.

The sale closed in July, renovations started in September and the owners plan to move their offices in at the end of summer, said Ben Widmyer, a member of Wiggett Partners LLC, the building’s ownership group.

“We took it down to the bricks and timbers,” said Widmyer, president of Widmyer Corp., a Coeur d’Alene development and property management company that will occupy 2,300 square feet on the second floor.

The other owners are The Murray Group, a downtown Coeur d’Alene health benefits consulting firm that will occupy all 5,200 square feet on the third floor; and Welch Comer Engineers, which will fill 7,000 square feet on the ground floor and lower level.

The new look for the 1928 Wiggett Building in downtown Coeur d'Alene. Image courtesy of Widmyer Corp.
The new look for the 1928 Wiggett Building in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Image courtesy of Widmyer Corp.

“Part of it is to practice what we preach,” said Phil Boyd, president at Welch Comer, which does extensive urban renewal work. “My wife and I had looked at that building for three or four years. The issue was parking.”

The city of Coeur d’Alene in December started construction on the city’s first parking garage a half block  north of the Wiggett building. Construction on the garage convinced Widmyer and Boyd to move ahead with buying the building. Widmyer had been Boyd’s broker on other real estate properties. They brought The Murray Group into the ownership group.

Welch Comer has about 30 employees and many, including Boyd, live near the existing Welch Comer office by Home Depot and Coeur d’Alene High School in the northeast corner of town.

“My commute currently is four minutes,” Boyd said. “It will be 15 minutes. I think I can handle that. Being downtown is desirable because there are so many activities and opportunities.”

Montgomery Ward occupied the Wiggett building from 1928 to 1966. Photo courtesy of Widmyer Corp.
Montgomery Ward occupied the Wiggett building from 1928 to 1966. Photo courtesy of Widmyer Corp.

Montgomery Ward occupied the building from its completion in 1928 until the retailer moved to the Coeur d’Alene Mall in 1966. Tenants since then have included Home Furniture Mart and, from 1988 to 2006, Wiggett Antiques Marketplace, which had to move out when a new building owner took over.

“It will be great to re-energize that section of Fourth and Lakeside,” said Hilary Anderson, Coeur d’Alene’s community development director. “We are continually trying to expand the downtown area.”

The building has stood empty since 2006 through three successive owners until Wiggett Partners came onboard.

“The market has improved,” Widmyer said.

Seejepp Creative will be another tenant and an undisclosed tenant will fill the corner suite at Fourth and Lakeside. A 1,200-square-foot space remains available on the ground floor and a 1,400-square-foot space is available on the second floor, Widmyer said.

Widmyer’s office now is in the 1908 Sherman Arms building that he bought and renovated in 2014 on Sherman Avenue, Couer d’Alene’s main downtown street.

Miller Stauffer Architects of Coeur d’Alene is the architect and T. LaRiviere Equipment & Excavation of Coeur d’Alene is the general contractor.


Coeur d’Alene becomes third Idaho city to build public parking garage

Coeur d'Alene is building its first downtown public parking garage. Image courtesy of city of Coeur d'Alene.
Coeur d’Alene is building its first downtown public parking garage. Image courtesy of city of Coeur d’Alene.

Coeur d’Alene started construction in December on the city’s first parking garage, a 360-space downtown structure along Coeur d’Alene Avenue between Third and Fourth streets.

Coeur d’Alene will be only the third city in Idaho with a public garage along with Boise and Nampa. Idaho Business Review calls to the 13 largest cities in Idaho confirmed that no other city has public parking garages, and nor do the University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

The $7.3 million, 3½-level garage will be located one block north of the primary downtown couplet of Sherman and Lakeside avenues. The garage is expected to open in September, said Sam Taylor, deputy city administrator.

Sam Taylor
Sam Taylor

The lowest level, which is partly underground, will have secured parking that requires a pass.

“This is our first opportunity to have secured parking,” Taylor said.

Parking rates have not been established. The garage likely will have hourly and monthly parking, he said.

The garage is being built on a half block jointly owned by the city and ignite cda, which is the city’s urban renewal agency. The city owned the prior 55-space surface parking and ignite cda owned two small mid-block buildings, one most recently used for storage and the other occupied by North Idaho Import Parts, where the owners were looking to retire, Taylor said.

A parking analysis done by Rich & Associates determined the downtown core had a deficit of 221 parking spaces, though the greater downtown still had a surplus of 462 spaces among its 4,476 spaces.

“We really were focusing on making sure it’s for the long term,” Taylor said. “The trick is people want to park very close to where they shop.”

Taylor said the garage will be instrumental during the numerous downtown events staged during the year along with the weekly farmers market.  The garage also assists with business attraction. Taylor noting that a local engineering firm in the suburbs committed to moving downtown when the city confirmed it would build a garage.

“It made the difference whether we moved to downtown or didn’t move downtown,” said Phil Boyd, president of Welch Comer Engineers, located near the northeast corner of Coeur d’Alene but moving into the historic Wiggett building, a half block south of the garage. “If we have very large meetings, say 15 people, we can direct them to the garage.”

The garage is also a first step toward the expansion of Coeur d’Alene’s downtown to the north. The city in recent years has sought to revitalize downtown to the east along Sherman Avenue, the primary downtown street. In the future, more garages could be built north of this first garage, Taylor said.

Miller Stauffer Architects of Coeur d’Alene is the architect and T. LaRiviere Equipment & Excavation of Coeur d’Alene is the general contractor.

Sears, Macy’s, Kmart closing stores in all corners of Idaho

Sears is closing 39 stores, including those in Twin Falls and Coeur d'Alene.
Sears is closing 39 stores, including those in Twin Falls and Coeur d’Alene. File photo.

Magic Valley Mall in Twin Falls will lose two of its four anchors and Silver Lake Mall will lose one of its three anchors in the next few months as Macy’s and Sears move forward with dozens of closures across the country.

Macy’s will begin its clearance sale Jan. 8 in Twin Falls followed by Sears liquidation sales starting as soon as Jan. 12 in Twin Falls and at the Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene, according to company releases.

In addition, the Kmart store in Ammon is expected to close by the end of January. Sears Holdings owns Sears and Kmart. Boise lost its Kmart in March 2016.

Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar, who is also CEO of the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce, is leaning on the half-full glass philosophy.

“My initial reaction is it’s the changing face of the retail market,” Barigar said. “We still have robust retail development but it’s happening in different ways.”

In a similar approach to Barigar, The Woodbury Corp., which owns the Magic Valley Mall, said in a statement:  “As consumer tastes and interests have changed over time, we relish opportunities to bring fresh retailers to Magic Valley Mall. The recent announcement of the closure of Macy’s and Sears have provided us with those opportunities, and we are in discussions with several exciting retailers to take the space. We anticipate announcing the details on these new tenants very soon.”

Sears Holdings announced Jan. 4 that it will close 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores between early March and early April. The company sites closing unprofitable stores as it seeks to balance its physical stores and digital capabilities.

Sears has a combination of 17 locations, including stores, hometown stores, outlet stores, hardware stores, and auto centers in Idaho.

Meanwhile, Macy’s plans to close 11 stores, including the Twin Falls store, in mid to late March.

The Twin Falls closure is part of a multi-year national reevaluation of Macy’s stores that has resulted in the closure of 124 stores since 2015 that swept up Moscow (April 2016) and Nampa (April 2017) and in prior years downtown Boise (2010). Macy’s will have four remaining Idaho stores in Boise, Idaho Falls, Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene.

“These closures are part of a multi-year effort by the company to ensure the optimal mix of brick and mortar stores and digital footprint,” Macy’s said in a statement. “With these closures, the company will have completed 81 of the approximately 100 planned store closures announced in August 2016. The company intends to close approximately 19 additional stores as leases or operating covenants expire or sale transactions are completed.”

Macy’s 61,000-square-foot Twin Falls store opened in 1987, the year following the opening of the Magic Valley Mall, which is owned by Woodbury Corp., the Salt Lake City developer that also owns Canyon Park West, Canyon Park East and Target Center, all within sight of the mall.

The Twin Falls store is in the same closure cycles as Macy’s stores in high-profile locations as Stonestown Galleria in  San Francisco; Westside Pavilion in  Los Angeles; Laguna Hills Mall in  Laguna Hills, Calif.; downtown Miami; and other stores in Novato, Calif.,  Gainesville, Fla., Terre Haute, Ind., Fort Gratiot Township, Mich., Burlington, Vt., and Cincinnati.

New York City-based Rouse Properties owns Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene and, in total, 36 malls in 21 states. Rouse had anticipated and planned for a potential Sears closure, according to a company statement.

“We have a successful track record of filling vacant spaces with a variety of prominent high-volume retailers of all types,” the Rouse statement said. “We plan to do the same with the vacated Sears box at Silver Lake Mall, as we very much are committed to the long-term success of this property.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with Rouse Propeties comments about the Silver Lake Mall at 2:40 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2018.


SPi CRM call center fills Sports Authority vacancy in Coeur d’Alene

A call center will fill a vacancy left when Sports Authority closed at the Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene. The vacancy is the second of five associated with Sports Authority in Idaho to find a new tenant.

SPi CRM, a customer service outsourcing company based in the Philippines, will open its second U.S. call center in Coeur d’Alene, following a Madison, Wisc., call center that opened in 2013. Coeur d’Alene will be the company’s 12th location across the globe, according to a SPi CRM news release.

Bob Mitchell
Bob Mitchell

“Coeur d’Alene is an ideal fit for our growth strategy,” SPi CRM President & CEO Maulik Parekh said in the release. “The local population has a wealth of talent.”

SPi CRM expects to open in Coeur d’Alene in September and have 240 employees in place by the end of the year with expected growth to 500 employees in 2018, the release said.

SPi CRM is a subsidiary of Japanese business process outsourcing company Relia Inc. SPi CRM has clients in the media, telecommunications, travel and hospitality, financial services and e-commerce sectors, according to the company website.

Sports Authority filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2016 and by summer 2016 had closed all its stores including the five stores in Idaho. Vacancies remain in Boise, Lewiston and Idaho Falls but a former Sports Authority in Nampa was filled with CircusTrix.

A retailer is interested in the Boise Sports Authority space that has been empty since July 31, 2016, next to Barnes & Noble, said Bob Mitchell a retail broker at Thornton Oliver Keller.

“We are in very early stages of negotiation,” Mitchell said.

Note: This article was updated on Aug. 25 at 12:30 a.m. with the Sports Authority in Nampa.

Intermax starts serving city-owned fiber optic cable in Sandpoint

Coeur d’Alene-based Intermax Networks has become the internet service provider for a newly installed city-owned fiber optic cable between downtown Sandpoint and city hall, a distance of about a half mile.

Access to the municipal fiber optic cable allows Intermax to roughly double its fiber optic service in Sandpoint, Intermax President Mike Kennedy said.

Intermax, the largest independent internet, voice and data network provider in the Inland Northwest, has 1.76 miles of its own fiber optic cable in the downtown Sandpoint core bounded by First and Fifth avenues and Cedar and Pine streets. The city agreement allows Intermax to extend its service about a half mile west to the city hall area.

The city’s cable runs from Bonner General Hospital through downtown on Third Avenue, continues west on Church Street to briefly join U.S. 2 before finishing at city hall at Lake Street and Olive Avenue. Intermax expects to add branch lines to serve customers within about a half to 1 mile of the main cable, Kennedy said.

“The city is trying to jumpstart the availability of fiber everywhere,” Kennedy said in a phone interview.

Intermax serves cities and rural areas in Kootenai, Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, and Spokane counties. This is the first time the company, established in 2001, is providing service on a city-owned fiber optic cable, Kennedy said.

The city recently installed two fiber optic cables. One connects municipal properties for city use; the other is described as an “economic development” fiber network available for the private sector to lease and provide service.

“The city has worked for years to make this happen, and we’re proud to have Intermax be the first provider on the city’s network,” said Jennifer Stapleton, Sandpoint city administrator, in a news release. “They are a local North Idaho company who has many clients in Sandpoint and Bonner County.”

Intermax has served Bonner County for 14 years with rural microwave internet, installing its first fiber optic cable in downtown Sandpoint six years ago, Kennedy said.


Coeur d’Alene’s Innovation Collective increases its space 10-fold

The Innovation Collective is moving into the long-vacant former Elks Temple building in downtown Coeur d'Alene. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The Innovation Collective is moving into the long-vacant former Elks Temple building in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Innovation Collective in Coeur d’Alene will enter summer with 10 times more space as the “economic transformation agency” moves into a 36,000-square foot, century-old building that has stood vacant for 27 years.

Nick Smoot launched The Innovation Collective, his third co-working space, in 2013 to help northern Idaho tech entrepreneurs and market Coeur d’Alene as an emerging tech center.

“The innovation economy should not just be on the coasts. It can exist in small towns,” Smoot said. “How do we connect great minds in smaller towns with bigger industry players?”

Nick Smoot
Nick Smoot

The Innovation Collective now occupies 3,800 square feet on Sherman Avenue – Coeur d’Alene’s main street – where it offers open co-working space but no offices. The collective’s new space will have 47 small offices, two 1,300-square-foot suites and 8,000 square feet of collaborative space, Smoot said.

Smoot said more than 60 percent of the office space is already leased.

Smoot expects to move the Innovation Collective into the 1907 original Elks Temple building in the middle of June. The three-story building is located on Lakeside Avenue, the companion one-way couplet street to Sherman Avenue.

Smoot said more than 5,000 people have been actively involved, attending coffee meet-ups, twice-a-month sessions to work through start-up business ideas, or monthly talks with local or national business leaders.

“We are flying in leaders from Fortune 500 companies,” said Smoot, including former and current executives at Virgin America, Microsoft, Apple, Telemundo and Coca-Cola. Smoot said several leaders at Facebook, Google and Microsoft have moved to northern Idaho to retire or to work remotely.

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer endorses Innovation Collective, recognizing  the value of entrepreneurs interacting because “you never know what kind of ideas will spur to bigger things.”

“They’re marketing to these folks all across the U.S.,” Widmyer said. “Come to Coeur d’Alene, rent a little office, talk to all the people who have started tech businesses.”

Smoot said an Innovation Collective article on LinkedIn has reached 3 million people.

Widmyer also acknowledged Smoot’s group for revitalizing a large, old, long-vacant downtown buildings.

Smoot bought the Elks building for $1 million with two Coeur d’Alene partners, Cody Peterson, co-founder of micro LED lighting products manufacturer Rohinni, and Rick Thrasher, an entrepreneur, commercial investor and developer.

Others have explored and abandoned ideas to redevelop the building as a nightclub, movie theater or condos, Smoot said. When Smoot and his partners floated the idea of moving IC into a 110-year-old building, the tech community quickly responded.

“It became a lightning rod: ‘I want to get into the building,’” Smoot said. “We already had a pre-installed community.”

C-Span co-founder Robert Titsch retired to northern Idaho, who is investing in local tech companies, will have an office at IC, Smoot said. A design firm expanding from Dallas, a patent firm from Washington, a local start-up stealth robotics company and other early stage companies, will as well.

Sidebar: Coeur d’Alene’s Innovation Collective reaches out to the world

The Innovation Collective is renovating an empty, long-vacant building in downtown Coeur d'Alene with 47 small offices for entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy of Nick Smoot.
The Innovation Collective is renovating an empty, long-vacant building in downtown Coeur d’Alene with 47 small offices for entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy of Nick Smoot.

The Coeur d’Alene Innovation Collective, only around since 2014, is already multiplying around the world.

Founder Nick Smoot has created similar “economic transformation agencies” under the Innovation Collective umbrella in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and in Lodi, Italy. A fourth IC will open soon in Butte, Mont., he said.

“The goal is 200 cities in 20 years,” Smoot said. “We create the model, platform and brand. We believe we are the new chamber of commerce for the tech/innovation economy.”

Smoot refers to a widely cited Oxford University report that 47 percent of jobs are vulnerable to computerization in the coming decades.

The Innovation Collective seeks to bring entrepreneurs together under the mantra of “you don’t know what is possible unless you’re exposed to it.”

Smoot said IC seeks to achieve that in three ways:

* Activate the entrepreneurs in town and have them move to an office at Innovation Collective rather than exclusively working in a home or garage.

* Rebrand the economy. Coeur d’Alene has established a niche in robotics and artificial intelligence and became the first city to give robots the same rights as people.

* Import experts. Bring in “thought leaders” to create mentorships and relationships with local start-up entrepreneurs.

“Innovation Collect is a  mix of a country club meets co-working space meets accelerator,” Smoot said.

Coeur d’Alene is remodeling its 1978 city hall to 2017 standards

Coeur d'Alene is renovating its city, which includes a new facade and relocating the elevator to the front of the building. Photo courtesy of city of Coeur d'Alene.
Coeur d’Alene is renovating its city hall. The work includes installing a new facade and relocating the elevator to the front of the building. Photo courtesy of city of Coeur d’Alene.

Coeur d’Alene is upgrading its 1970s-era city hall with a new, larger elevator; new internet wiring, and other amenities.

The 1978 elevator isn’t wide enough to carry more than two people to the second floor, said City Clerk Renata McLeod.

“It’s a very narrow elevator that just comfortably fits two people,” McLeod said. “The door is not wide enough to fit wider wheelchairs.”

Coeur d’Alene City Hall, built in 1978, has Internet service but the cables were  strewn above the false ceiling. New IT wiring will be installed

The Coeur d'Alene City Hall elevator comfortably fits about two people. Photo courtesy of city of Coeur d'Alene.
The Coeur d’Alene City Hall elevator comfortably fits about two people. Photo courtesy of city of Coeur d’Alene.

in a more orderly manner, she said.

“It just became a corded mess up there with old phone lines and other lines no longer used,” McLeod said. “We’re going to clear out the elevator shaft and make it an IT cabinet.”

The $2.18 million city hall remodel will replace the aging heating and ventilation system; remodel all the restrooms to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; replace 20th century light fixtures with LED fixtures; and install new electrical service, new fire alarms, a new security camera system and magnetic door locks, McLeod said.

The 40-year-old cedar-plank façade, some of it burrowed by birds, will be replaced with a new wood façade and the exterior will be repainted. The employee break room will be moved from the second floor to the ground floor.

Ginno Construction of Coeur d’Alene, the construction manager/general contractor, started work April 10 with an expected October completion. Longwell + Trapp Architects of Hayden is the architect.


Cash and Carry readies to open fourth Idaho store in Coeur d’Alene

Cash&Carry's new Coeur d'Alene store will join other Idaho stores in Boise, Nampa and Twin Falls. Photo courtesy of Cash&Carry.
Cash&Carry’s new Coeur d’Alene store will join other Idaho stores in Boise, Nampa and Twin Falls. Photo courtesy of Cash&Carry.

Cash&Carry Smart Foodservice will open its fourth store in Idaho on Appleway Drive in Coeur d’Alene on June 17.

Portland-based Cash&Carry is a warehouse-format store that caters to the food service industry but is open to the public.

Cash&Carry arrived on Shoreline Drive in Boise in 1995, on Sundance Road in Nampa in 2006, and on Canyon Crest Drive in Twin Falls in 2015.

The 61-store chain is concentrated along the Cascade corridor in Oregon and Washington, but also has stores in northern California, Reno, Salt Lake City and is opening in Missoula, Mont., in July. Cash&Carry carries the fully array of supermarket products but in larger sizes for use by restaurants.

“At this time we do not have any additional confirmed openings in the Idaho market,” said John Mathews, vice president of sales and marketing at Cash&Carry. “However, we are always looking for new opportunities.”