Boise Sports Park:
A Community Goal & Economic Home Run

“Done correctly, sporting facilities can be catalysts for urban economic development. They can act as an anchor for retail and residential growth and they bring thousands of people and their economic activity into a neighborhood. And done creatively, they can enhance a city’s existing assets and sense of place. We think the proposed Boise Sports Park project accomplishes all of those goals.”

- Bill Connors, President and CEO, Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce

The Boise Sports Park will:

  • Usher in a new era by bringing a USL Championship League soccer team, minor league baseball, collegiate and prep sports, and other community events to a modern venue in the city’s downtown.
  • Inject added vitality and character into Boise’s West End, creating another appealing destination for Boiseans to live, dine, shop, and work—all within walking and biking distance of a variety of neighborhoods and downtown attractions.
  • Represent a $150+ million investment in Boise, creating hundreds of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact, and more housing, retail, office space, and dining in the West End.
  • Enable our thriving soccer community to have its own professional USL soccer club.
  • Provide the Boise Hawks with a new and much-needed home field and a superior experience for baseball fans, both old and new.
  • Grow an area that today is a “drive through” for most into a “drive to” neighborhood for many.
  • Enable our thriving soccer community to have its own USL soccer team.
  • Provide the Boise Hawks with a new and much-needed home and a superior experience for baseball fans, both old and new.
  • Create a versatile public facility for various community, cultural, and collegiate and prep sporting events.
  • Grow an area that today is a “drive through” for most into a “drive to” neighborhood for many.

Seizing a unique opportunity for Boise

A modern, new, multi-use park provides the opportunity to bring a new professional USL team to a soccer-loving community ready to enthusiastically embrace Boise’s own professional club.

This new venue would also provide a modern venue for the Boise Hawks, who have been calling Boise home for 30 years and whose fan base has been growing, but who currently play in a stadium that has outlived its useful life. The sports park could also potentially be a home field for collegiate and prep sports and summer camps.

In addition to these primary tenants, the proposed sports park is also an ideal venue for outdoor concerts, fun-run or triathlon start/finish areas, prep tournaments, corporate/community functions, and family-oriented events.

As a centerpiece of a mixed-use development on several adjacent acres in the West End,(one of the last downtown parcels of this size available for development), the sports park has long been viewed as a key asset to further enhancing Boise’s quality of life. Such a project could coalesce the city’s downtown and infuse capital and energy into a neighborhood that has been ripe for investment in recent years.

The sports park’s capacity, designed for approximately 5000 (fixed seats) to 7500 people (total capacity) depending on the event, is a bit larger than the Boise Hawks’ current Memorial Stadium (4000) yet surprisingly on par with some of the newer prep football fields built recently for high schools around the Treasure Valley. At its maximum capacity, it is roughly one-fifth the size of Albertsons Stadium at BSU. The proposed sports park’s modest size means traffic, noise, and light impacts are manageable. West End homes and apartments would be buffered by Main St. and existing commercial locations on the north side of Main.

Several acres roughly contiguous to the proposed sports park would serve as the foundation for mixed-use development that will help pay for that new facility (through the new property taxes it generates) and further enhance the ongoing economic, social, and cultural revitalization of the West End neighborhood

The adjacent private development that comes with the sports park promises new retail space, housing (at least 200 new units in Phase I), office space, and parking—catalysts that have already shown results in bringing people, enterprise, opportunity, and lasting transformation to Boise’s downtown.

In a previous study done for a potential site in the nearby River District of downtown Boise, an independent consulting firm projected that a $100 million investment in the facility and the adjacent private development, along with several hundred events annually in the sports park, will translate into more than 1,200 full- and part-time jobs and $1.8 billion in total economic output (including indirect and induced spending) over 22 years.

Apart from the intrinsic entertainment, civic, cultural, and community-building value of this public amenity, this project, when viewed through an economic lens, can deliver positive impact to the community that is just as significant as other initiatives local and regional business leaders use to attract new companies or investments.

What the supporters are saying...

Fact vs. Fiction

FICTION:

This project will create a financial black hole for the city.

FACT:

The City of Boise has worked hard to earn and protect its AAA bond rating (according to Fitch)—the only AAA bond rating in the state. The $3M that the City may commit as a capital investment in the sports park is a mere 1.4% of the 2019 General Fund budget. With such a relatively small outlay of money for this project, all municipal services will continue to be provided at current or greater levels. In return for the City’s small investment, the public will own the parcel of land that the sports park will sit on and a multipurpose facility that will likely be valued, even after depreciation, at least $50 million. Agon Sports will help ensure that the asset is functional, usable, and modern for decades to come, thanks to annual contributions to a reserve account that will allow for needed maintenance and upgrades.

 

FICTION:

This project puts Boise taxpayers at risk.

FACT:

Under an annual lease appropriation agreement—a financing structure that was upheld by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2016—the City Council must approve the lease payment each year. The Council may choose to not make that payment in any given year; if that were to happen, the bondholders would have no recourse to the taxpayers. That is the risk that the bondholders choose to incur.

The sports park operators, Agon Sports (which owns both the baseball team and the future soccer team and who will manage other events at the facility), will be contractually obligated, through agreements with the City, to pay approximately $1.2M in annual lease payments, under a lease agreement whose term will be at least 20 years. The developer, Greenstone Properties, will also be obligated to ensure that enough private development is created around the sports park to generate at least $1.4M per year in property tax increment (above and beyond the current property taxes for the same parcels). Finally, Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) will contribute funds from the 30th Street urban renewal district (created in 2014, for the purposes of spurring redevelopment the West End), which will be used for sidewalks, streetscape enhancements, and neighborhood infrastructure. Together, those sources of revenue are expected to cover annual bond payments.

No bonds will be issued unless there are commitments and demonstrated financial capacity on the part of the developer for $100 million in private development.

FICTION:

Not enough people go to athletic events now. Interest in minor league sports is declining.

FACT:

Since Agon Sports purchased the Boise Hawks in 2015, attendance has grown every year. In 2018, they set a club attendance record, drawing more than 126,000 fans and boasting the largest percentage increase in attendance in the Northwest League. This growing and sustained fan interest has occurred despite the challenges of operating at Memorial Stadium—an aging, outdated, and inadequate venue. Interest in soccer across the Treasure Valley also continues to grow, with 12,000 kids in the Treasure Valley involved in youth soccer and more than 60 adult teams playing in the Southwest Idaho Soccer League (SISL). The Basque Soccer Friendly attracted more than 20,000 fans. The Portland Timbers 2 soccer team played to a sold-out crowd of more than 4,300 in 2016. A 2017 professional indoor soccer game at CenturyLink Arena sold out in a matter of days. The expansion and popularity of soccer in the Treasure Valley shows no signs of slowing. Across the country, United Soccer League (USL) clubs are showing a 38% increase in attendance just since 2016. Minor league sports continue to be some of the most affordable and family-friendly activities available in cities across the country.

FICTION:

We don’t know anything about the companies behind this project.

FACT:

Agon Sports has owned the Boise Hawks since 2015, and in that time, has shown a commitment to the team and the Boise area by increasing attendance 39% and running a profitable operation. Agon has announced its commitment to bring a professional United Soccer League (USL) Championship team to a city and metro area where enthusiasm and participation in soccer continues to grow and expand. Agon may also engage Boise-based investors in the soccer team.

Greenstone Properties is ready to invest at a minimum $100 million in private, mixed-use development that will generate $1.4 million in tax increment (the difference between the property taxes prior to the development and the property tax the developers/owners pay after the development is complete) annually to help support neighborhood improvements. Greenstone’s investments will also create hundreds of new jobs for Treasure Valley residents.

Greenstone is no stranger to building sports facilities. They built SRP Park (home of the Augusta GreenJackets)—named Ballpark of the Year by Ballpark Digest in 2018—and $100 million in delivered, scenic, riverfront development as part of the mixed-use Riverside Village in North Augusta, SC. They also built Parkview Field (home of the Fort Wayne Tin Caps) and The Harrison, a residential and office-over-retail building in Fort Wayne, IN. Chris Schoen, a partner in Agon Sports and Greenstone Properties, has a lot of skin in the game, with the success of the teams and the sports park operation directly tied to the success of the surrounding development. Furthermore, city leaders have traveled to Fort Wayne and Augusta and met with leaders there to further vet the development partners and the project.

FICTION:

Private investors would make all the money while Boise is left with all the costs.

FACT:

Public investment is limited and the public gain is substantial. The estimated $50-
million sports park features a proposed mix of private and public investment—only a small fraction would come from the City of Boise General Fund, if any at all. Some money may come from the hotel room tax (Greater Boise Auditorium District funds), which is almost entirely paid for by out-of-town visitors. Much of the money to pay for the bond will come from the private development adjacent to the sports park, and the tax increment financing (TIF) it generates, in addition to the annual lease payments that Agon sports will make. For a relatively small investment, the City will own the sports park outright, putting in public hands a valuable, long-term asset.

FICTION:

Citizen voices were not and are not being included in this process or decision.

FACT:

As city officials were wrapping up a process of studying feasibility and conducting due diligence in 2017, the City sponsored three open houses in the fall of 2017 to introduce the details of the proposal and gather feedback. The public comments that were collected through that process and online were overwhelmingly positive (approximately 75%). Now with a different site proposed in 2019, there will likely be open houses and avenues for citizen input, once a proposed plan is announced. Whether the City contributes directly to the project or not, standard entitlement and permitting procedures will begin once an application is submitted to the City. This process, dictated by state statute and municipal code, welcomes and requires public input and participation and will examine considerations such as traffic, noise, and lighting impacts.

Did you know?

Frequently asked questions

The proposed project will be housed on a several-acre site between Fairview and Main and between 27th St. and Whitewater Boulevard in Boise. The sports park itself will be a public, multi-use facility that would house a professional USL soccer team, the Boise Hawks minor league baseball team, and potentially collegiate and prep sports events, including regional tournaments. The capacity will be between 5,000 and 7,500 guests, depending on the event. The facility will also be equipped to host other events, such as concerts, cultural festivals, sports festivals, fun-runs, corporate functions, and weddings.

Additionally, several remaining acres adjacent to the sports park will serve as the foundation for a mixed-use development that will help pay for infrastructure around the park itself while also serving to help drive the economic, social, and residential revitalization of a neighborhood poised to achieve its full potential. The private effort promises retail space, housing, office space, and parking—all catalysts that have already shown results in bringing people, enterprise, opportunity, and lasting enhancements to Boise’s downtown.

Opportunities that bring together the right partners, investment, location, and vision don’t come around very often and Boise should seize the moment. A sports park designed for varied uses and functions that meets many identified community needs has long been at the heart of the City’s downtown development vision. The proposed project creates a compelling amenity and entertainment option for residents, several hundred new housing units and housing density, and another venue for community events. Also, a new professional sports team that unites fans across all different demographics, political persuasions, ages, and neighborhoods serves to build community at a time when we’re told we’re supposed to be divided.

Agon Sports and Entertainment operates two successful minor league teams (Boise Hawks and Augusta Greenjackets). Agon purchased the Hawks in 2015. The company also operates three popular music venues in the Atlanta area.

Greenstone Properties is a private real estate firm based in Atlanta. Chris Schoen, a managing principal of Greenstone, is also a partner in Agon Sports. Chris Schoen has been involved in two other mixed-use sports park projects—one in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and another in North Augusta, South Carolina (which was named Ballpark of the Year by Ballpark Digest in 2018). As part of the due diligence process, local Boise officials visited Fort Wayne, toured the project, and confirmed with leaders there that Chris Schoen is an experienced, capable, and reliable partner.

What gives this partnership credibility is the incentive each has to make this project with the City successful. While Agon commits to making the soccer team and Boise Hawks successful, Greenstone understands the viability of its $100 million+ investment of residential, office, and retail space is tied to a thriving sports park. By having the soccer and baseball teams owned by the same group, as well as having a mutual partner with the developer of the surrounding housing/office/retail property, there are distinct advantages to the development and the City.

A funding proposal is still being formulated. What we know at this point is that the proposal will not raise taxes for anyone or affect any essential public services. 

The price tag for the sports park and surrounding public infrastructure is estimated at $50 million. Initial funding would come from private and public partners, with the developer paying more than half of the costs.:What are the proposed financial benefits?

In its 2017 feasibility analysis, consulting firm Convention, Sports, & Leisure International—using conservative estimates and formulas—projected that a sports park/adjacent private development not far from where the current facility is proposed would have created 1,240 full- and part-time jobs that result in $588 million in payroll over 22 years. In addition, the analysis projected $646 million in direct spending and $1.8 billion in total economic output (including indirect and induced spending). By any measure, this is an outstanding economic development project for Boise.

Memorial Stadium barely met the standards of minor league baseball at the time it was built, and thus became outdated quickly. In contrast, the proposed sports park would be built to the highest of modern standards. The City and Agon Sports would view the sports park as a long-term asset; they plan to invest in this asset (through a capital reserve account for maintenance and upgrades, governed by a board) in order to keep it a state-of-the-art facility for decades to come.

The independent consultant Convention, Sports, and Leisure International looked at all classifications of minor league baseball and reviewed the status of teams that play in ballparks built since 1995 to see whether they relocated or folded. They identified modern-day baseball parks with the fan amenities and revenue generating capabilities to help sustain a team. Of teams operating in such parks built since 1995, only 2 teams within affiliated baseball (3% of the total) and 2 teams in independent baseball (6% of the total) have folded.

Projects that have struggled, while they are in the minority, have lacked the private development component integral to the proposed blueprint for Boise. And unlike venues in other places, the Boise’s stadium is not designed to be one-dimensional in use, thus giving the operator more flexibility and revenue streams.

Agon Sports, owner of the Boise Hawks, has a track record of successfully running the minor league baseball team, increasing attendance and the team’s profitability for several years.

Opponents have cited spurious examples like Newark, NJ, where the team failed and the sports park was ultimately sold to private owners. Unlike Boise, there was no history/presence of minor league baseball support in the market prior to sports park development. Moreover, at one point, NJ once had six minor league baseball teams, while also being in relative proximity to three Major League Baseball teams (Mets, Yankees, Phillies). Similar apples-to-oranges comparisons have been drawn with Stockton, CA and Hartford, CT, where the terms of the deals, lack of safeguards, and financial conditions were completely different.

Because of the modest size of the facility (5,000 to 7,500 capacity), traffic impacts are expected to be manageable, and the Fairview/Main corridor, with its proximity to the I-184 Connector, is ideally situated to handle game-day traffic
It should be noted that the venue’s capacity is significantly less than the Capital City Public Market, which attracts on average 10,000 to 15,000 people downtown every Saturday. Stadium events would be comparable to or smaller than other downtown events:

Alive After Five: 3,000-4,000, on average
Idaho Steelheads regular season game: 4,300, on average
Bodybuilding.com trade show: 6,000, on average
Art in the Park: More than 250,000 over three days

In addition, unlike Memorial Stadium (the current home of the Boise Hawks), the new venue will be easier for people to walk, bike, or take public transit to for games and events. The proposed location is within walking distance of the downtown core, the College of Western Idaho, Esther Simplot Park, and the Whitewater Park,, and is close to the Greenbelt and the Boise River.