On the ballot: voters to suggest locations for Joe Albi replacement stadium

On the ballot: voters to suggest locations for Joe Albi replacement stadium

In four weeks, voters will weigh in on the future of high school sports in Spokane by suggesting a replacement for Joe Albi Stadium, as part of a bond partnership between the city and Spokane Public Schools.

No matter what voters decide — Joe Albi as we know it will be no longer. The stadium will be torn down and rebuilt, but the question is where?

If you live within city limits, you’ll see two options under the City of Spokane Advisory Vote on the back of your ballot — either to build a new stadium downtown, next to the Spokane Arena, or to keep the stadium where Joe Albi has stood for the past 70 years.

“There’s some confusion out there that Albi could just be remodeled or is going to just be remodeled. Unfortunately it’s lived its useful life. It has a whole lifetime of memories here, but 70 years of winters and summers has taken its toll on the stadium,” said Brian Coddington, a spokesperson with Spokane Public Schools.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for longtime Spokane resident Paul Hyndman, who’s spent the last 40 years taking his family to football games at Albi. In its early years, the stadium was home to rock concerts, high school football games, and even an NFL exhibition game in 1953.

“I enjoy Albi, but I’m understanding, you know I understand that it’s not going to come back in its full glory,” Hyndman said.

The stadium is so special to Hyndman, he created a group, Friends of Joe Albi, dedicated to preserving it. But the cracks are beginning to show at the stadium — stairs are peeling off from concrete walls, mold is growing on the ceiling of the press box, concrete stairs are cracked, and outbuilding roofs are breaking down.

Plus, Spokane Public Schools told KXLY4 the stadium has room for 28,000 fans, but typically only sees about 1,000 for games on the weekend.

“With 28,000 capacity stadium, comes the ability to park 28,000 fans so that’s a rather large footprint right now for parking,” said Coddington. “There’s a big footprint for parking for a stadium that doesn’t get used to that capacity.”

Coddington said the new stadium will hold 5,000 fans. With either location option, extra space at the Albi site would allow for a middle school and an expansion of the Dwight Merkel fields.

“This is a decision about what’s best for the next 60 years of Spokane’s history and how best to capitalize on that facility so we’re not rebuilding facilities all the time,” Coddington said.

Coddington told KXLY4 the cost for building the new stadium at either location is the same, with the total coming in at $31 million, which is included in the city-school bond partnership. The multi-use facility would be used for boys and girls soccer, lacrosse, football, band competitions and graduation ceremonies.

Parking for Spokane Public Schools events will continue to be free at the new stadium. The district is confident there will be enough parking, even at a downtown location. Regardless of location, the district said ticketing prices will be similar to those at Joe Albi Stadium.

The advisory vote on the ballot is not binding — meaning, the election results will give the school board an idea of what voters want, but in the end, the board will have the final say as to where the stadium is built. If approved, design for the new stadium would begin next year and construction would run from 2020-2021.