A New Field of Dreams?

Citydesk looks at just-released market-viability analysis on a new multi-purpose stadium.

| June 29, 2011
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At a cost of approximately $430 per page, a new market-viability analysis neither recommends nor discourages the possibility of building a new multi-purpose stadium in Boise. But the 57-page study should give Mayor Dave Bieter and Boise City Council members plenty to ponder before stepping into the batter's box.

For example:

• The development of a new stadium could allow Boise to attract a higher class of baseball than the Boise Hawks' current Class A status. Class AA franchises are located exclusively in the Eastern and Southern United States, so it's highly unlikely that Boise could be included. However, Class AAA franchises are located throughout the nation and could represent a potential opportunity for Boise.

• While construction of a new stadium could boost attendance to Hawks games by as much as 43 percent (an average of 4,000 fans per game), a facility could readily host varsity football, baseball, softball and soccer. Concerts and even a wintertime outdoor ice rink for public skating are other potential uses.

Convention Sports and Leisure International, a Minnesota-based company, was commissioned to craft the study, including analyses of minor league baseball facilities and franchises across the country.

The overriding issue remains the price tag. The average construction cost of Class A Short-Season ballparks built since 2000 is $26.7 million. Most facilities were built by combinations of public and private funding. A stadium in State College, Pa. was built with significant funds from Penn State. Boise would be hard-pressed to find similar generosity from Boise State, given that the school doesn't field a baseball team.

The analysis indicates a multi-use stadium could host a variety of high school athletic events, beginning with home games for the Boise School District's sports programs. The district's four high school football teams each play all home games at Bronco Stadium, but scheduling conflicts have occurred in recent years, causing Boise State and the district to consider alternative sites. Some games draw as many as 10,000-12,000 spectators.

While the Idaho High School Activities Association doesn't hold an official state high school baseball competition, an invitational tournament serves as a de-facto championship. Softball championships are typically held in the Idaho Falls-Pocatello region. Soccer championships are currently held in various locations, including fields in Meridian and Caldwell.

A surprise disclosure in the study is that the current Hawks' ownership "has expressed an interest in purchasing a minor league soccer franchise to serve as a second anchor tenant." The franchise would likely play in the Premier Development League, comprised of 64 teams throughout North America, including an eight-team Northwest Division. If the Hawks were to play in a new stadium, a professional soccer team could follow.

Once Bieter and the Council consider the analysis, the city could then commission a separate study to determine the best location for a new stadium.

Comments (1)

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I recently moved here from Fort Wayne, IN and can say from firsthand experience that a new, downtown stadium can make all the difference in the world.

Several years ago Fort Wayne had what could best be described as the blandest baseball park in the U.S. There was nothing wrong with it but there was nothing especially outstanding about it either. It was cold and grey, in an odd, inconvenient location and attendance was generally miserable.

When talk arose of building a new downtown stadium the typical Fort Wayne mentality of everything is just fine the way it is kicked in and there was huge opposition. The mayor, to his credit, pushed the new downtown stadium through anyway. A beautiful, new retro park with design cues from Chicago's Wrigley Field was built downtown and the team changed its name from the Wizards (yawn) to the Tin Caps (which ties into Fort Wayne's Johnny Appleseed heritage.)

The rest, as they say, is history. Four years later the new downtown stadium is a huge success, attendance is through the roof, and even the naysayers (and there were a lot of them) had to admit that their misgivings were unfounded.

Boise already has a pretty amazing downtown. A new downtown stadium would make it just that much better.

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Posted by Jayhawk on 07/26/2011 at 2:18 PM
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