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Boise Ballpark Could Avoid Urban-Renewal Funds Referendum

Boise Hawks

Though nothing is settled, Boise officials could outline a funding plan for a new Boise Hawks (Short Season A; Northwest League) ballpark that avoids a referendum related to urban-renewal funds

As part of an effort to replace Memorial Stadium, Hawks ownership has been formulating a plan for an estimated $50 million new ballpark. Greenstone Properties–where Hawks co-owner Chris Schoen is a partner–is working on a proposal to build the facility as part of a larger development on a site in the city’s West End, with the Hawks and professional soccer among the uses pitched for the potential venue.

Urban renewal money–funding generated through new property tax revenue within a designated urban renewal district—has been viewed as a possible funding source for a new ballpark, as well as a proposed library project that is in the works. Complicating its potential use in both proposals, however, is a recently signed bill at the state level that will take effect on July 1 and effectively make it more difficult to tap into that funding source without voter approval via referendum.

While they caution that nothing is finalize, Boise officials revealed this week that they are considering, among other options, funding models that could eliminate the partial use of urban-renewal revenue. This would not negate potential referendums being sought by a citizens group that are not related to urban-renewal funds, but it would allow the projects to avoid the type of referendum required under the recently passed legislation. More from the Idaho Statesman:

Mike Journee, the spokesman for Mayor David Bieter, told the Statesman on Wednesday that the city is considering, among other options, looking at a budget for both projects that would end the projects’ partial reliance upon property tax revenue from urban renewal districts.

“It’s all still in early considerations,” Journee said in a phone interview.

A state law enacted this year requires a public vote if the cost of a municipal building or a major remodel exceeds $1 million and is funded by at least 51 percent non-federal public money that includes any amount of urban-renewal money. The law could cover both projects, although that remains unclear.

If the city succeeds in excluding urban-renewal money, those elections would not be necessary. But Boise still faces the prospect of separate elections on the projects, because a citizens’ petition may put the library and stadium on the ballot.

The proposed facility has been pitched as a home for the Hawks along with a planned professional soccer club in Division II USL Championship, which would also be owned by Hawks ownership group Agon Sports & Entertainment. (That club was announced earlier this year as being contingent upon construction of the proposed ballpark.) College sports could also be part of the mix, as Boise State recently announced it would reengage in discussions about placing its baseball program at the facility.

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