Minor League Baseball and real-estate development intersect again, as the new owners of the Boise Hawks (short season A; Northwest League) say they’ll work on a public-private partnership that includes a new ballpark.
There’s no doubt that Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1989, was built on the cheap and doesn’t come close to filling either the financial needs of team owners or the development needs of a MLB parent.
A new ballpark was once pitched for downtown Boise by some business leaders, with arguments that Boise is more of a Class AAA market than a short-season market. We’ve had some business discussions regarding setting up shop in Boise with another our websites, so we know there’s certainly a lot of business expansion in the city. But the Hawks have not been able to tap into this new Boise economy, despite some credible efforts from the front office.
Perhaps a new ownership group will have a better shot — especially one that includes principals with development expertise. Chris Schoen and Jeff Eiseman have experience in working on such public-private partnerships: Schoen was part of the group that brought lots of development and a new ballpark to downtown Fort Wayne — one of the best examples of what such a public-private partnership could look like — and they’ve also got another one in the works with a new Augusta GreenJackets (Low Class A; Sally League) ballpark in North Augusta. With downtown Boise booming and the economy rock-solid, the time may be right for such a development. From the Idaho Statesman:
“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.”
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.
There have been a few major development announcements recently, like the partnership between developers and Boise State on a new downtown tech center. There’s also a major entertainment complex under construction on the west side of downtown Boise, where Schoen and Eiseman envision a new ballpark. And it’s hard to go more than four or five blocks in downtown Boise without hitting some sort of construction or renovation. So this may be the right time for Eiseman and Schoen to pursue some sort of new ballpark development — perhaps as early as 2017.
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