There has been a lot of conversation over the last six months about the possibility of a new ball park in the Treasure Valley – known affectionately as the Treasure Valley Sports and Entertainment complex. It looks to hold the Hawks, along with a possible professional soccer team, host concerts, prep sports, and a possible outdoor ice venue during the winter.
Locations have been pinned down to Boise (possibly including the vacant car lots along the Boise River just down from the Doubletree and Joe’s Crab Shack) and Meridian (multiple sites in the area – including one that was on the Meridian master-plan sheet that was unveiled at a City Council Meeting a couple months back.
The TV stations, the local newspapers, and local radio have all talked about the issue – as the Hawks are looking for some sort of a public-private partnership to fund the 20 million dollar facility…but all anyone talks about is, will people pay for it.
Before I answer that, is the facility needed – well, if you listened to Brian Murphy’s column in yesterday’s Idaho Statesman (which was well written), you’d think no, Memorial Stadium is fine. But, it failed to mention the things that are a necessity for minor league baseball – and things that the Chicago Cubs will look at when wanting to renew their Professional Development Contract.
Are there enough seats…I guess. Are there enough concession stands…I guess. But, is the press box good enough…not even close – it is in my opinion one of bottom two in the league…I’d put Salem-Keizer at the bottom, just because of its design, but Memorial Stadium’s press box is a cramped space that does not have an elevator or a way for a disabled reporter or broadcaster to enter (I feel for Eugene’s Chris Fisher and Spokane’s Bob Robertson, both who would appreciate an elevator)…even the vantage point is limited, as the crowd stands in front of you throughout the night (thankfully, I have a monitor for the video feed). Memorial Stadium is one of only three stadiums in the league without a video board, with it’s message center 1/4 the size of the other two clubs who do not have the LED boards.
How is the clubhouse…substandard at best. There are just two urinals and one toilet for the entire Hawks team (coaches/players/staff) to utilize…there is no team room, no lounge area, and one small television. Even the visiting clubhouses in most of the NWL cities are a big improvement to what the Hawks players and staff must deal with when they go to work. Trainer AJ Larson has the smallest training room in the loop – in fact, his training room in every visiting clubhouse in the league is bigger than his one in Boise.
I am not complaining, Memorial Stadium was a great facility in 1989 and continues to be the home that countless fans have been drawn to over the last two decades. But there is only so much that layers of paint can do – the talent that the Cubs (or whomever is the affiliate) bring to this great city deserve the best – not the worst.
Just last week, the Yakima Bears, who year in and year out rank dead last in the Northwest League in attendance, unveiled renderings to the Yakima Economic Development Committee of their proposed new ball park (and multi-use facility) – hmmm, where have we heard that before.
Let’s think about this – last in attendance, only 60,000 people in the community, a ballpark that is newer than Memorial Stadium, and I am convinced that Yakima will have a new ballpark (pictured at the top of the page and to the right) before Boise.
Being a native Washingtonian, I have been through the stadium issue before…first it was the Kingdome – which, inspired by the 1995 Mariners, helped build Safeco Field (fueled by taxpayer dollars)…Qwest Field, which replaced the Kingdome (fueled by taxpayer dollars), and now, a new Cheney Stadium (pictured left) in Tacoma, which, like Memorial Stadium, was one of the, if not, the worst AAA facility in the Pacific Coast League. Taxpayers have also helped out all of the other professional venues – Everett Memorial Stadium (new video board), Avista Stadium (new scoreboard and seating), Gesa Stadium (scoreboard and million dollar sunshade), County Stadium (scoreboard and seating upgrades), along with improvements at the Spokane Arena, Toyota Center, ShoWare Center, and Everett Events Center – things those ownership groups didn’t have to pony up dollars for.
Would the Boise market, and/or the Idaho legislature offer anything of this sort – NO! I have a hard time believing that people do not even pass their own school bond measures, fire levies, or road bonds – but yet complain about the quality of education deteriorating, roads falling apart, and why it took the fire department so long to get to your house. The conservative nature of the community is something that I have had to get accustomed to in my ten years in the valley – I never really realized how liberal the Seattle-Tacoma area really was until I see it from afar.
So then, how could this new park become reality in the Treasure Valley – I can only think of two possible ways, since there is no chance in my book that any of the cities will pass a tax, nor will the legislature fund it (since they just slashed K-12 and higher education). One would be for one of the municipalities to apply for an Urban Renewal bond from the Obama Administration – which I could see the City of Boise being able to do, which could revitalize a portion of downtown. The other would be for an increase in the lodging tax in the valley – so that visitors to the area would actually be the ones funding the facility.
Is Memorial Stadium my home in the summer, yes. Does it have charm, yes. And I have so many memories at the yard. But, this community deserves a new facility so that it can start resembling like communities across the nation.