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 USL soccer, minor league baseball, and other community events to a modern venue in the city’s core.
  • Add new vitality and character to the River District, creating another appealing destination for Boiseans to live, dine, shop, and work—all within walking and biking distance to a variety of neighborhoods, districts, and other downtown attractions.
  • Represent a $100 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 River District.
  • 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 deliver a new professional USL soccer franchise to a soccer-loving community ready to respond with enthusiastic support.

This new venue would also provide a modern home to the Boise Hawks, who have been calling Boise home for 30 years, but currently play in a stadium that has outlived its useful life.

In addition to these primary tenants, the proposed facility 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 potential centerpiece of a mixed-use development on an adjacent seven-acre site (arguably the last downtown parcel of this size available for development), the park has long been viewed as a critical asset to improving quality of life. Such a project could coalesce the city’s downtown and inject capital and energy into a neighborhood that has not attracted much investment in recent years and that is showing some signs of deterioration.

The sports park’s capacity, designed for 5,000 to 7,000 people depending on the event, is larger than the Boise Hawks’ current Memorial Stadium (3,500) yet on par with some of the newer football fields built recently for high schools around the Treasure Valley. At its maximum capacity, it is one-fifth the size of Albertsons Stadium at BSU. The proposed sports park’s modest size means traffic, noise, and light impacts are manageable.

The seven remaining acres adjacent to the sports park serve as the foundation for a mixed-use development that will help pay for that new facility (through the new property taxes it generates) and drive the economic, social, and cultural revitalization of the River Street neighborhood.

The adjacent private development that comes with the sports park promises new retail space, housing (300 new units), office space, and parking—catalysts that have already shown results in bringing people, enterprise, opportunity, and lasting transformation to Boise’s downtown.

An independent consulting firm projects that the $100 million private/public investment, along with more than 200 events annually in the sports park, will translate to 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, and cultural 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:

If this project happens, Boise will be left with a financial black hole.

FACT:

The City of Boise has been smart and 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 is committing as a capital investment in the sports park is a mere 1.4% of the 2018 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 people of Boise will immediately own the parcel of land that the sports park will sit on (worth an estimated $4.8 million). Furthermore, once the bond is paid, the City will own outright a sports park that will likely be valued at, even after depreciation, at least $30 million. Agon Sports and the City will 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.

The sports park operators, Agon Sports (who own both the baseball team and eventually the soccer team), will be contractually obligated, through agreements with the City, to pay approximately $1M in annual lease payments. The developer, Greenstone Properties, will also be obligated to ensure that enough private development is created around the sports park to generate at least $1M per year in property tax increment (above and beyond the current property taxes for the same parcels). Together, those two sources of revenue are expected to cover the City’s annual lease payment, with which Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) will make annual bond payments.

FICTION:

Not enough people go to athletic events now.

FACT:

Attendance at Boise Hawks games has increased 39% during the last three seasons. 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 15,000 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. The expansion and popularity of soccer in the Treasure Valley is huge and shows no signs of slowing. Furthermore, across the country, United Soccer League (USL) clubs are showing a 38% increase in attendance just since 2016.

FICTION:

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

FACT:

Agon Sports has owned the Boise Hawks for three years, and in that time, has shown a commitment to the team and City by increasing attendance 39% and running a profitable operation. Agon is poised to deliver a professional United Soccer League team to a city and metro area where enthusiasm and participation in soccer continues to grow and expand. Agon has also engaged potential Boise-based investors in the soccer team.

Greenstone Properties is ready to invest $60 million in a private, mixed-use development that will generate $1 million in tax increment annually to help pay for the sports park, as well as creating hundreds of new jobs for Treasure Valley residents.

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, Indiana, where Chris Schoen built a similar venue, and met with leaders there to further vet the development team.

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 significant. The $40 million sports park features a proposed mix of 80% private investment and 20% public investment—which is actually significantly less when you consider that only 7% would come from City of Boise General Fund dollars and 13% would likely come from the hotel room tax, which is almost entirely paid for by out-of-town visitors. In 20 years, 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, the City sponsored three open houses in the 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%). If the City Council agrees to enter into a developer’s agreement, then the standard entitlement and permitting procedures will begin. 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 four-acre site (11 acres total with the surrounding development) at Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard in Boise. The sports park itself will be a public, multi-sports facility that would house a professional USL soccer team, the Boise Hawks minor league baseball team, and other youth and prep sports events, including regional tournaments. The capacity will be between 5,000 and 7,000 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, the seven remaining acres adjacent to the sports park will serve as the foundation for a mixed-use development that will help pay for 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 transformation 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. While many downtown neighborhoods have enjoyed high levels of investment in recent years, the River Street Neighborhood has largely been overlooked by private investment. A recent study commissioned by Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) examining properties within a proposed new Urban Renewal District (URD) found:

  • At least 25% of buildings in the proposed URD show some sign of disrepair, from broken windows to missing bricks and deteriorating exteriors
  • Crime within the proposed URD has doubled in the last 5 years
  • Only 2 new building permits have been issued in this area in the past 5 years
  • Downtown Planning Area taxable value has increased 52% in last five years compared to just 10% for proposed URD.

Agon Sports and Entertainment operates two successful minor league teams (Boise Hawks and Augusta Greenjackets). Agon purchased the Hawks in 2014. The company also operates three popular music venues in the Atlanta area.

Greenstone Properties is a private, boutique real estate firm based in Atlanta. The managing principal of Greenstone, Chris Schoen, 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 currently under construction in North Augusta, South Carolina. 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 a worthy 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 $60 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.

The proposal and the City’s participation will not raise taxes for anyone; the City will contribute $3 million out of the current annual budget. By investing $3 million, the City would ultimately become owners of an asset worth tens of millions of dollars, and, along with the public, be in a position to enjoy the benefits from the new economic vitality and potential for the River District.

The price tag for the sports park and surrounding public infrastructure is estimated at $40 million. Initial funding would come from private and public partners, including:

  • $5.8 million: Agon Sports and Greenstone Properties’ initial investment (includes $4.8 million in land donated to the City)
  • $5 million: Greater Boise Auditorium District contribution, generated from lodging room tax, which is primarily funded by visitors to the Boise area
  • $3 million: City of Boise General Fund
  • The remaining sum would come from 20-year bonds issued by CCDC, the City’s urban renewal agency. When the bonds are repaid, using the property tax increment from the $60 million in private development adjacent to the sports park and Agon’s annual lease payments for the stadium, the City of Boise would own the sports park outright.

In its feasibility analysis, consulting firm Convention, Sports, & Leisure International—using conservative estimates and formulas—projects the sports park/development will create 1,240 full- and part-time jobs that result in $588 million in payroll over 22 years. In addition, the analysis projects $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 reserve account for maintenance and upgrades) in order to keep it up to standards for decades to come.

The independent consultant CSL 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 Boise Sports Park blueprint. And unlike some other venues in other places, the Boise Sports Park 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 minor league baseball, increasing attendance and the team’s profitability each of the last three years.

Opponents have cited the case of Newark, New Jersey, where the team failed and the sports park was ultimately sold to private owners, but in that case the team had no operating history in the market before the new sports park was built. Unlike Boise, there was no history/presence of minor league baseball support in the market prior to sports park development.

Because of the modest size of the sports park (5,000 to 7,000 capacity), traffic impacts are expected to be manageable.

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. Sports park events would be comparable to 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 sports park will make it easier for people to walk, bike, or take public transit to games and events. The proposed location is within walking distance of the downtown core, Boise State University, the College of Western Idaho, and Ann Morrison Park, and is right along the Greenbelt.