After several attempts to replace the Spokane Coliseum, the Spokane Public Facilities District was created in 1989 by the Washington State Legislature by virtue of RCW 36.100. The Legislature appropriated $500,000 to the District to commence operations.
The District is a municipal corporation. It is an independent taxing authority and a taxing district as defined in the state Constitution. The boundaries are coextensive with the boundaries of Spokane County.
As defined by the Legislature, the SPFD was authorized to "acquire, construct, own and operate sports and entertainment facilities with contiguous parking facilities."
Board of Directors
As required by RCW 36.100, the SPFD was created by resolution of the Spokane City Council and Board of Spokane County Commissioners who were also authorized to appoint two members each to a five-member board of directors. Those four were authorized to select one person to serve a four-year term. The legislation specified that one of the five was to be a representative of the lodging industry within the boundaries of the district. The District's Rules call for an annual election of leadership at the regular meeting scheduled closest to November 15th each year. The original founding members were:
- Dave Robinson
- J D Ray
- Carl Lind
- Jim Williams
- Tanya Guenther
Background of District Activities
In the spring of 1990, the District Board published a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an economic feasibility/market analysis. Laventhol & Horwath (now Price Waterhouse) was hired to help determine the type, size and location of a new facility to replace the Coliseum. David Petersen of L & H conducted over 40 interviews with local area elected officials, user groups, citizens and promoters as part of this study. Nine sites were evaluated for possible location of a new facility.
The Board subsequently voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of the Laventhol & Horwath study, as follows:
Type: An arena was chosen over a domed stadium.
Size: 12,000 to 14,000 with the capability for future expansion.
Location: On City-owned land east of the Coliseum, with on-site parking for 2,000 automobiles.
The District issued an RFQ for architectural services and interviewed several architectural design teams to perform preliminary technical services. ALSC Architects of Spokane was selected as lead architect in conjunction with Ellerbe Becket Architects of Kansas City, Missouri.
A ballot proposition was placed on the County general election ballot in November of 1990 with two issues: (1) a property tax bond issue of $38 million to finance construction; and (2) a measure to validate the District, which would allow it to impose a two percent hotel/motel room tax on properties of 40 or more units. The second measure passed while the first failed to get the supermajority needed for approval.
In December of 1990 the City of Spokane and Spokane County each issued $15.4 million in bonds to preserve tax-exempt status. This was the basis of the first Interlocal Cooperation Agreement among the District, City and County.
Over that winter the Board again met with local elected officials and community leaders to discuss the concept of a one-tenth of one percent sales tax measure. Local area legislators (primarily Senator Jim West and Representative Bill Day) worked to obtain legislative support of a bill to allow the District to seek voter approval of such a measure.
The one-tenth of one percent sales tax measure was placed on the primary election ballot in September 1991 and received the approval of Spokane County voters, thus completing the financing needed to construct the Arena. The ballot proposition specified the cost of the facility at $44.8 million and stated that all funds would be used for the Arena project. Both taxes were imposed on January 1, 1992.
Property became available which allowed the District to site the Arena south of the Coliseum. After the election the District requested that the City acquire property within the project construction site. This was the basis of the Second Interlocal Cooperation Agreement between the District and the City related to real property lease and option to purchase this property.
Early in 1992 the District issued an RFQ to hire a project manager to oversee construction of the facility. Gerald R. Schlatter, former project manager of the Seattle Kingdome, was selected. Jerry proceeded to work with the architects to refine the building program.
In November 1992, after issuing a Request for Proposals for management services, the District entered into an Interlocal Agreement with the City, known as the Arena Operating Agreement. This was subsequently amended in July of 1994.
In December of 1992, following months of work to refine bond documents and resolve mutual issues, the District, City and County issued an aggregate total of $44.8 million in tax-exempt bonds, as follows:
- District $ 14,000,000
- City $15,400,000
- County $15,400,000
Also in December of 1992 the District Board approved the design development phase of the project, and work began on the construction document phase.
In February of 1993 the Board formed an art jury consisting of Harold Balazs, a renowned Spokane artist; Tom Dukich, former chair of the Spokane Arts Commission; Dr. David Scott, former professor of architecture at WSU; Beth Sellars, then curator of the Cheney Cowles Museum; and Jim Ray. After receiving several art submittals, the jury selected and the Board approved sculptor Phillip Levin and muralist Mel McCuddin as successful applicants in May.
Ceremonial groundbreaking occurred on March 5, 1993, complete with a confirmed Elvis sighting.
In early 1993 the Board hired Welle Consulting of Minneapolis to conduct a feasibility study of a premium-seating program. The Board reached an agreement on suite marketing with Brett Sports and Entertainment and the twelve suites were offered and sold very quickly. The Hot Tickets program continued to sell.
As the City acquired property necessary for the project construction site, a new parking lot was developed for the Flour Mill as part of a land swap. This lot set the standard for development of the project site and for the North Bank.
In August of 1993 the District and the City's Arena Management Department moved to West 720 Mallon, its permanent home.
The District advertised the site work package and hired Garco Construction of Spokane in August of 1993 to complete this first phase of construction (i.e., footings, foundations, sewer and water lines, sidewalks, etc.)
MOMENTUM awarded the District a total of $150,000 for a national marketing program.
The District advertised the general construction contract in early November of 1993. Garco Construction was the low bidder for that contract. The Board approved a $1.3 million change order to the contract for the remodeling of the West 720 Mallon building.
Negotiations were completed between the District and the Spokane Chiefs as prime tenant of the Arena. A 15-year agreement was executed to the satisfaction of all parties. In addition, Brett Sports Entertainment (BSE) took on a significant role in the Arena's marketing efforts to sell the suites, advertising sponsorships and club memberships.
In July of 1994 the District and City executed the Fourth Interlocal Agreement, which granted authority to the District to, among other things, demolish the Coliseum.
In June of 1995 the City of Spokane issued $7.7 million in lease revenue bonds to fund the demolition of the Coliseum and to pay off a line of credit between the City and Seafirst Bank which was established to fund the City's acquisition of property for the project construction site and for some technical services such as environmental assessment, title reports and surveying services.
The Arena opened in September of 1995 and has been a remarkable success for the community. Millions of tickets have been sold to events ranging from Chiefs hockey to Elton John and Garth Brooks to NBA and NHL exhibition games. The 5th Birthday was celebrated in year 2000, with a public Open House, Bill Cosby, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sarah Brightman and Bill Gaither. The facility hosted the NCAA Womens Volleyball Championships in 1997, the NCAA Women's Regional Basketball Tournament in 2001 and the men's first and second rounds of basketball in 2003. The Mens First and Second rounds used the Arena again in 2007 and just a few weeks afterwords, the US Figure Skating held it's National Championships in the Arena. The Arena has hosted NCAA Basketball Championships in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. In the summer of 1999 the Star Theatre was introduced, a new and exciting smaller-house configuration, to attract new artists.
In 1999, the District commissioned a Life Cycle Analysis by Roen & Associates, which was followed by a Long-Range Financial Plan completed by LeMaster & Daniels, PLLC, a nationally recognized accounting firm. These studies helped the Board determine short- and long-range goals for maintaining the Arena in first-class condition.
In August 2002, the Board revised the District's Mission Statement to include other projects as the original PFD was created for the construction of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
Following a report issued by the Facilities 2000 Working Group they recommended that the PFD take on other projects, due to the successful operation of the Arena. There are three main projects:
- The expansion of the existing convention center (CCX)
- The Fair and Expo Center Grandstand
- CenterPlace at Mirabeau Point
The 5-member Board began their due diligence, to determine if it was fiscally and operationally feasible. On May 21, 2002, Spokane County voters overwhelmingly authorized the Regional Projects including a significant expansion of the Spokane Convention Center and the new projects at both the Fair and Expo Center and at Mirabeau Point.
The Board determined that the site for Convention Center Expansion (CCX) must be adjacent to and attached to the existing Convention Center and Ag Trade Center. Sites to both the east and to the south were evaluated. Geotechnical work on both sites was completed and both sites could accommodate a 100,000 sq.ft exhibit hall, new lobby and loading areas, covered connections between the facilities and on-site parking. Property valuations were received and meetings with the property owners on both sites were held. The Board adopted a Property Acquisition Policy that guided acquisition efforts, and worked closely with the City of Spokane Real Estate Department, which made property purchase offers on behalf of the District. The architectural team of LMN/Integrus began the process of refining the building program and addressing operational issues. The Board retained Jim Kolva Associates to develop an Environmental Impact Statement. Air quality, traffic and regulatory issues were evaluated before the Board could select an expansion site.
Interlocal Agreements were negotiated and addressed a variety of issues that included bonding, real estate acquisition, capital financing and asset transfer. The Interlocals were critical to the long-term success of the Regional Projects.
Integrus Architects of Spokane was retained to design the CCX project in partnership with LMN Architects of Seattle. The General Contractor/Construction Manager method was chosen and the team of Hoffman/Bouten was selected. Matt Walker was hired as Project manager for the project. The Regional Projects Communications Committee entered into an agreement with Alliance Pacific Inc. and Desautel Hege Communications to assist the District with public relations and community communications. The Regional Projects Sales and Marketing Committees met regularly with the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau to develop an effective business retention plan, coordinate sales objectives, and develop a relationship structure with the Spokane Regional CVB for convention center marketing and sales.
In July 2003, the District Board approved a financing plan that called for the District to issue $77 million in bonds, the County to issue $12 million and the City of Spokane Valley to issue $7 million. The County funds were designated for use at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to pay for a new 6,000-seat covered grandstand and food court. The City of Spokane Valley bond proceeds were used to develop CenterPlace - a new 48,000 square-foot facility with three building wings: a senior center, an educational and business center, and a cultural center.
The District completed the site selection process for the CCX project and in August of 2003 approved the purchase of the property to the east of the existing facility and property on the block to the south. The 100,000 square-foot Exhibit Hall was located on the East site. The PFD Board approved the sale of $77 million in bonds for Convention Center Expansion financing, taking advantage of favorable interest rates.
On September 2, 2003 the management of the Spokane Opera House and Convention Center was transferred to the Spokane Public Facilities District. There was a special "Passing of the Keys" ceremony involving representatives for the PFD and the City of Spokane. After consideration of every management alternative, the District hired a core group of employees to operate and manage all the facilities and will continue to rely heavily on contract services for many of the day-to-day operational tasks. Kevin Twohig is the Chief Executive Officer of the District and is supported by the management team of Johnna Boxley, Dave Gebhardt, Matt Gibson, Stephanie Curran, Stephanie Huff, and Sherry Leatha.
The official ground breaking ceremony for the Convention Center Expansion took place on July 1, 2004. A naming rights agreement with Group Health was reached and the new Exhibit Halls are known as the Group Health Exhibit Halls. Cost increases in basic building materials prevented the complete build-out of the Exhibit Halls but the expansion was completed ahead of schedule and a dedication ceremony occurred on July 19, 2006. A public open house was held the following day and well attended. The portion of the CC that was constructed for the 1974 Worlds Fair was completely remodeled and opened on time and on budget in May of 2007.
Immediately following completion of the CC expansion and remodel, the District began a series of projects at the INB Performing Arts Center. Since 2003 the District has invested heavily in the INB in projects that include: new seats, a rigging system upgrade, a new sound system, new chillers, paint, carpet, new elevators, new marquee, and all new site work.
Other recent District improvement projects include the addition of a ribbon board in the Arena bowl and a new marquee for the Convention Center.
Following a very successful 2007 that produced record operating profits, the District Board authorized the additional of major food and beverage facility and new VIP entry at the NW corner of the Arena. The NW Grille opened in the fall of 2008. Partial funding for this improvement was provided by Center plate, the District's exclusive food and beverage provider.
In 2008, the District concluded negotiations with Glen Cloninger and Jon Diamond to purchase the privately held parcels on the "South Block". This is the block bounded by Bernard, Main, Washington and Spokane Falls Blvd. This property acquisition was accomplished thru negotiation with the parties, assisted by the City of Spokane. In 2009, the District cleaned up the lot and developed a first-class surface parking facility with perimeter walls, landscaping, and solar lighting. This is an interim step in the District's Vision 20/20 plan which calls for the South Block to be the site of an expanded CC/Hotel site.
In 2009 a comprehensive study was completed to help the PFD chart its long-term future. Vision 20/20 outlined a number of initiatives designed to ensure the District continues to be a major economic engine for the Inland Northwest. Completing the Convention Center's original design in order to stay competitive with the rest of the nation was among the more important recommendations. The District also determined that restoring an extensive section of Spokane River shoreline and adding seats in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena would also greatly benefit the region. The District's Staying Competitive, Creating Jobs proposal received a 56% approval from Spokane County voters in April 2012. The 10 year extension of existing sales/use and hotel motel taxes was used to finance the estimated $60 million of improvements and create some 400 construction jobs and an additional 400 local jobs when the expansion opened.
In order for Spokane to remain competitive in attracting important sporting events like Division 1 NCAA men's basketball, the voters also approved funding for additional Spokane Arena seating to increase capacity from 11,447 to more than 12,000. After consideration of all options to efficiently and cost effectively achieve this goal, the District decided to replace all arena seating with new seats, an approach that realizes a $400,000 savings from the original project budget. The project was scheduled between events and completed by the Chief's 2013/14 home opener.
The Spokane Public Facilities District Board selected three Spokane area Design Build Teams to compete for the Spokane Convention Center Exhibit Hall Project and rehabilitate a portion of the Spokane River shoreline adjacent to the facility. In April 2013, the Design Build Team of Garco/ALSC/LMN was selected as the finalist for the Convention Center Completion Project. A contract was negotiated and construction began in September, with the demolition of Shenanigans. Hill International acted as the Project Manager for the project, which was completed in January 2015. A community open house was held on February 24, 2015 to celebrate the completion of the expansion project.
The Convention Center expansion added 92,000 sf to the existing facility including 20,000 sf of added exhibit space, a 12,000 sf Centennial Ballroom, 10,800 sf of new meeting space and a hi-tech 800 sf Board room. The project successfully linked the west and east side of the CC campus, created immediate access to the Centennial Trail and new river overlooks and includes a connection to the new Spokane Grand Hotel.
In September 2013, the District Board approved the final sale and transfer of a District owned, downtown piece of property, the South Block, to the Worthy Group to develop the Spokane Grand Hotel – part of the autograph series by Marriott. The 714 room Spokane Grand Hotel opened in 2015.