For new Boise Hawks owners, an old pitchSeptember 24, 2014
Like its predecessors, thegroup wants a better baseball stadium, and it is sniffing around Boise for locations and partners.
By SVEN BERG AND DAVE SOUTHORN
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.orgSeptember 24, 2014
The west side of Boise’s Downtown is one of the places Agon Sports and Entertainment is thinking about building a new stadium for the Boise Hawks, co-owner Chris Schoen said Tuesday.
There are other possibilities, too, such as the city’s suburbs, Schoen said. Whatever the location, Schoen and Jeff Eiseman, Agon’s president, left no doubt Tuesday that they want a new ballpark for Boise’s minor league team, which Agon is in the process of buying.
Eiseman said problems with the aging and outdated Memorial Stadium, where the Hawks have played since 1989, might be the reason the team was up for sale.
“Ultimately, we have a baseball stadium problem in this town, and it does need to be resolved,” Eiseman said, echoing baseball officials and city leaders who’ve expressed that thought a lot over the past few years. “Clearly, you have a venue out in Garden City that is not a long-term solution for baseball in this market.”
MORE THAN BASEBALL
The when, where, how and how much have yet to be worked out, Eiseman and Schoen said, but Agon is considering a public-private partnership to build a mixed-use development that would include commercial and possibly residential space in addition to a stadium.
The idea, they said, is to use the stadium to spark interest in retail stores, offices and homes surrounding it.
The precedent is Project Jackson. A $144 million project underway in North Augusta, S.C., Project Jackson would include a stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets, which Agon owns, as well as a hotel, conference center, apartments, townhomes, restaurants and office space, according to published reports. Schoen also helped oversee construction of a new minor-league stadium in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The GreenJackets and the Fort Wayne TinCaps are Single-A teams; the Hawks are a short-season Single-A club.
“We’re looking to create an entertainment district someplace that we can create a vibrant area that is going to not only be a draw for baseball, but also be a draw year-round,” Eiseman said.
It’s unclear whether the Hawks are seeking a stadium partnership with a minor league soccer team, as developers and economic experts around Boise have suggested to make the venue profitable.
The Hawks will continue to play in Memorial Stadium in 2015, General Manager Todd Rahr said. A new stadium had long been on the wish list for the previous owner, Minor League Holdings, which bought the team in 2006.
Eiseman said his group will aggressively seek a new ballpark.
“Ideally, depending on how things progress, we could be looking at 2017,” he said. “It’s a hard process, but I think we’re still in a window where that’s still possible.”
WHO CAN HELP?
Several governments have jurisdiction in Downtown’s West End – which lies roughly between the Boise River and Vine, State and 18th streets, and includes vacant car lots along Whitewater Park Boulevard near Main and Fairview.
The city of Boise put the West End in its newest urban renewal district; that brings to bear the influence of the Capital City Development Corporation, whose job is to help redevelopment of the district. The agency has the power to use tax money for development in the district.
Efforts to contact its executive director Tuesday were unsuccessful.
But the renewal agency typically uses its money to pay for basic groundwork – sidewalks, gutters, streetscaping and other infrastructure upgrades. Sometimes, it buys and prepares land for development, then sells the land to developers. The agency doesn’t usually pay for new buildings.
“I think we’re bringing a different value proposition than what previous ownerships provided,” Eiseman said. “I think we can provide a solution that’s been missing.
“There’s lots of different ways to do it. … I’ve never seen anywhere that has said, ‘We want a baseball stadium, can you tax me for that?’ We want to look at ways where there isn’t that risk.”
Sports venues are also the purview of the Greater Boise Auditorium District, which gets its money from a 5 percent tax on hotel room rentals in and around Boise.
Indeed, some people wanted the district to use its savings to help build a $20 million Hawks stadium in the West End. But the district is preoccupied with an expansion of the Boise Centre, its convention venue. Almost all of its money is set aside for that project.