The prospects of a proposed Boise Hawks (Short Season A; Northwest League) are in question, as a crucial deadline for property acquisition is approaching amidst political uncertainty.
In early 2017, plans were unveiled for a new downtown ballpark that would be the anchor of surrounding development led by Greenstone Properties–where Hawks co-owner Chris Schoen is a partner. Amidst opposition to the downtown plan among local residents, the effort shifted to the city’s West End in 2018, as Greenstone bought an option to purchase property from a Los Angeles-based developer.
The vision has largely remained the same as it was at the downtown site, with the proposed facility to host both the Hawks and professional soccer while anchoring a larger redevelopment initiative led by Greenstone Properties. However, it has faced a number of hurdles, including approval of a state law that effectively created new hurdles to obtaining urban renewal funds and voter approval of a ballot question that requires any ballpark over $5 million–publicly or privately financed–to be the subject of a citywide referendum. (The constitutionality of this measure has been questioned by some city officials.) Meanwhile, a politician who is a vocal supporter of the project is facing an uncertain political future, as four-term Boise mayor David Bieter prepares for a runoff election next month against city council president Lauren McLean, who has not been as supportive of the idea of building a new ballpark.
There are also questions about what Greenstone is planning to do with the proposed ballpark site. It has always been anticipated that Greenstone would acquire multiple nearby properties to fully build out the project, but it has acquired just one small site so far. Furthermore, the option to purchase the site from the developer expires on January 1. No one in the Hawks’ camp is saying publicly whether that option will be exercised, while the property owner has apparently not had any communication with Greenstone about its plans. More from the Idaho Statesman:
The owner of the stadium land says Greenstone has had almost no communication with him about its purchase option, which expires Jan. 1, six weeks from now.
That owner is Los Angeles apartment developer Casey Lynch. Lynch is CEO and founder of LocalConstruct, recently renamed Roundhouse, which built The Fowler apartments at 401 S. 5th St. and the Watercooler apartments at 1401 W. Idaho St., and helped renovate downtown’s historic Owyhee Hotel into an apartment building.
Schoen isn’t saying whether he will exercise the option or let it expire. He did not respond to a Statesman email and phone message requesting an interview. Neither did [Jeff] Eiseman. Greenstone’s local lawyer, Geoffrey Wardle, sent an email saying: “We do not have anything to share at this time regarding the Boise Sports Park.”
Exactly what the Hawks do going forward remains to be seen, as does the outcome of next month’s runoff election and any implications it has on team ownership’s focus. Locally, there is already some speculation that the organization might focus on other sites in the area, with Memorial Stadium and the surrounding land viewed as a possible alternative. Hawks ownership has not said this is the case, but some elected officials sound open to the idea, as Ada County and Garden City–the small city just outside Boise where Memorial Stadium is located–have long considered redeveloping the site. The county opted this week to create a citizens’ task force to consider future options for the property, which could ultimately yield a long-term plan. From the Idaho Statesman:
If the citizens’ committee thinks the Hawks should stay put, “new changes to the land might really incentivize them to stay where they’re at long term,” county Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said by phone.
Garden City Mayor John Evans favors the site’s development.
“The city has been interested in exploring a higher and better use for the Expo Idaho site, as it sits vacant most of the time in a prime location,” Evans said by phone. “My perspective would be that if a commercial development was included with a sports complex that the county commissioners might consider, the city would love to take a look at it.”
The development model being considered in Boise is one that Hawks ownership has implemented elsewhere. Schoen and Jeff Eiseman co-own the Hawks through Agon Sports & Entertainment, which completed 2018 Ballpark Digest Ballpark of the Year SRP Park for the Augusta GreenJackets (Low A; Sally League). The vision in Boise calls for a new facility to be surrounded by mixed-use development–evoking SRP Park and the surrounding Riverside Village in North Augusta, SC–while being used for multiple types of events in addition to baseball, including home matches for a prospective USL Championship club that is contingent upon the ballpark’s approval.
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