After five years of controversy and, finally, construction, Spokane’s new stadium has opened its doors to the public

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The whirring sounds of construction echo as workers hurriedly complete the final touches on ONE Spokane Stadium. Thousands of stadium seats sit empty above the freshly laid turf that will soon be home to touchdowns, tackles and GOALSSSS.

It’s music to Matt Meyer’s ears.

As a Spokane native, Meyer’s excitement for the new stadium can hardly be contained. He says there was just nothing to do while growing up here. After he graduated from Washington State University in 2008, he says there wasn’t much of a reason to come back to Spokane — apart from a job offer and his family.

As director of entertainment for the Spokane Public Facilities District, which owns the land the stadium sits on, he’s trying to change that.

“We’re building a place where I would have wanted to stay as a kid, and a college student,” Meyer says. “It’s so exciting because Spokane is moving in the right direction.”

While Spokane Public Schools owns the $37.9 million stadium, the PFD will be in charge of running the 5,000-seat sports facility. (For concerts and other events, the stadium has a capacity of up to 12,000.)

The PFD also runs, among others, the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and the Podium, which are all located within the same two-block radius, creating Spokane’s own sports and entertainment district. Meyer says this was purely accidental.

“We joked around and talked about it, but it just kinda happened that way,” he says.

In addition to high school sports and concerts, the facility will be used by the Spokane Velocity — the city’s new men’s professional United Soccer League team, which will begin playing in the USL’s League One in March 2024. An as-yet-unnamed women’s team will also play at the stadium as part of the USL Super League.

The future may be bright for the city’s newest stadium, but it wasn’t always so.

In 2018, SPS asked Spokane voters to choose between two locations for a new stadium. More than 56,000 people — 64 percent of those who voted — cast their ballots in favor of building at the old Joe Albi Stadium in northwest Spokane. About 31,000 people, or 35 percent, voted for the downtown site on the north bank of the river.

However, it was an advisory vote so officials weren’t legally bound to follow voters’ wishes — and ultimately decided to build on the facility’s current spot near the city’s center, in part because the USL said it would bring soccer to Spokane if the stadium were centrally built. (Not to mention the league said it would contribute $2 million in construction for a downtown location.)

Michael Wiser, president of Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors, says the logistics behind the new stadium were relatively vague when the measure went to voters. People weren’t sure if there would be enough parking or how it would impact the area.

Instead of coming back to voters, the school board put out a community survey. Wiser says the board wanted to save on the cost of running another ballot measure, and the district wanted to field comments and concerns from citizens — something that filling a bubble on a ballot didn’t allow. With more information on the stadium plan, including parking, Wiser says the response to the 2021 community survey was mostly positive.

Meyer and Greg Forsyth, the district’s capital projects director, say that all parking concerns have been alleviated. Once workers finish building a parking lot where a Value Village store was recently demolished, there will be 13 parking lots and one garage for stadium goers — with a total of about 50 fewer parking spots than before the stadium went up on an existing surface parking lot. (The stadium can also be reached via Spokane Transit bus routes 26, 27 or 28.)

On Thursday, Sept. 28, two games will be played at ONE Spokane Stadium. The first, at 4 pm, is a soccer match between Shadle Park and Pullman high schools. The second, at 7 pm, is a high school football game between North Central and Clarkston.

Or, take a look around the stadium during a community open house on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 11 am to 1:30 pm.

Rejecting voters’ advice wasn’t the only headache in the stadium’s development.

Before it was named ONE Spokane in July, Spokane school board members considered naming the facility “The North Bank Stadium Presented by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians,” on the recommendation of the PFD and the soccer teams’ local owners.

The proposal was quickly shot down after the Spokane Tribe of Indians said it hadn’t been properly consulted about the naming of the facility, which is being built on the tribe’s ancestral land.

Instead of using tribal names for the stadium or field, the district decided to capitalize ONE, in an effort to show unity among all the groups that contributed to the arena’s construction — including the tribes that have called Spokane home since time immemorial and that were included in the naming process the second time around. ♦



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