SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. – The Spokane County Board of Commissioners voted this week 3-2 in favor of executing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Spokane County and Spokane Indians Baseball for improvements to the Spokane County Avista Stadium.
The purpose of the MOU was to establish mutually agreeable expectations for funding and completion of the improvements to Spokane County’s Avista Stadium as outlined in the Avista Stadium Master Plan. Spokane County has agreed to provide matching funds for every dollar raised by Spokane Indians Baseball up to Eight Million United States Dollars towards completion of remaining capital projects to Avista Stadium. Recently, the City of Spokane Valley authorized a $2 million contribution to support the construction effort. Updates to Avista Stadium are required by Major League Baseball by 2025 in order to allow a minor league team to continue playing at that facility. Representatives from the Spokane Tribe of Indians attended today’s vote in support of the Commissioners’ vote.
Spokane County will utilize the proceeds from the sale of other assets, such as the Raceway Park, to finance its share of capital matching funds. The MOU does not call for an increase in taxes.
As part of the MOU, terms of a new lease agreement have been outlined in anticipation of the significant financial contributions Spokane County will make to improve Avista Stadium. The new lease will go into place immediately following completion of MLB mandated improvements as identified in the Avista Stadium Master Plan and completion of the expanded dugout and the Legends Lookout spectator amenity improvements also included in the Avista Stadium Master Plan. Terms within the new replacement lease shall include, but are not limited to:
- Twenty (20) year lease period with option for two (2) additional five (5) year extensions.
- A $100,000/yr rent for Avista Stadium and adjacent office building each year, increasing Two Thousand $2,000/yr annually, effective January 1 of each calendar year, during lease term. Under the current lease, the team pays an annual rent of $25,000.
- Spokane Indians Baseball will now be fully responsible for 100% of operational and maintenance expenses. Under the current lease, Spokane County spends approximately $150,000 per year on ballpark maintenance.
- Spokane Indians Baseball shall encourage and facilitate additional revenue generating third-party rentals of Avista Stadium with 50% of net revenues to be paid directly to Spokane County.
- Spokane Indians Baseball must try not to schedule events/ games during Spokane Interstate Fair.
- Spokane Indians Baseball shall pay Spokane County Additional Rent on annual game attendance. The Additional Rent will be calculated as $1 per attendee in excess of 250,000 attendees.
Mary Kuney, Chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners stated, “This is a great deal for Spokane County taxpayers as we are only paying 1/3 of the cost of the upgrades while getting the full benefit for our baseball stadium. This is a County asset and community amenity that will be enjoyed by over 250,000 people during the course of the baseball season. This is 2.5 times more people than play golf on our three County golf courses, so it is clearly a valued amenity for our citizens. We are leveraging our $8 million investment with our partners at the Spokane Indians, City of Spokane Valley, and the State of Washington to receive a $22 million upgrade to Spokane County owned Avista Stadium. In addition to this, we also have an opportunity to bring the operating budget for the facility into the black. I see this as a win for our community.”
Commissioner Chris Jordan, representing District 1, said, “I’m pleased to join with Democrats and Republicans in supporting an agreement that will help save minor league baseball in Spokane County. We are at risk of losing our team if we don’t move forward, as our ballpark is already out of compliance with MLB’s benchmarks. This deal is the product of a year and a half of negotiation between the team and the County and allows us to save our baseball team without raising taxes on our citizens by a single penny. The County will use the proceeds from the sale of other assets to fund its portion. This is a good deal for the County going forward – it quadruples the team’s rent, makes the team take responsibility for all ballpark maintenance, netting the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year verses the current lease. Additionally, the team has skin in the game and must bring forward $8 million on its own. This is an investment in economic development. The team supports hundreds of jobs, generates millions of dollars in tax revenue which comes back to the County, and over $24 million in economic activity for our region. This is also good for kids and families, reinvesting in a great community asset that has connected families and united our community for generations. Losing our team is not an option.”
Commissioner Amber Waldref said, “I voted in support of the MOU between Spokane Indians Baseball and Spokane County because it creates a strong public-private partnership to reinvest in Avista Stadium so we can keep minor league baseball in our community and create an even larger economic impact in our County. I am thankful for all the work that went into this agreement from current and past Commissioners, County staff and the Spokane Indians to ensure we did not need to go out for any new taxes to upgrade our stadium to meet Major League Baseball requirements. The final agreement anticipates approximately $16M in match to our County commitment of up to $8M on capital improvements and brings in more revenue to the County so our stadium will continue to support our baseball team and our community for years to come.”
In response to his dissenting vote today Commissioner Josh Kerns said, “Although the County and the Spokane Indians Baseball Club have worked as partners together and in good faith. In my opinion, this MOU falls short of what is in the best interest for Spokane County taxpayers.” He also stated, “I’m deeply disappointed this agreement limits the ability for the County to recoup taxpayer dollars invested in the stadium.”
Also voting against the MOU, Commissioner French stated, “In my 45 years of experience in negotiating real estate deals, I’ve never been in a situation where I would accept the first offer on the table. What we have here is the first offer on the table. My goal throughout this process has been to develop an agreement that allows the Spokane Indians Baseball organization to be prosperous and get a fair and equitable deal for our taxpayers. Unfortunately, I don’t think the deal that was struck today accomplished that objective.”