A riverside ballpark in Boise? Big hurdles remain

Boise's field of dreams. Photo courtesy St. Luke's Health System

Boise's field of dreams. Photo courtesy St. Luke's Health System

The Statesman's big Friday story on a ballpark at the former Kmart site on Americana at Shoreline sets a big vision.

But this plan has some big challenges.

First - there is little to no guarantee St. Luke's Health System will sell the land for this use. I checked in with SLHS Public Relations Manager Anita Kissée.  She confirms that the chunk of land is in play as the non-profit hospital system reorganizes its real estate holdings. But she was clear - the ballpark group isn't the only group that hopes to own the land.

Full coverage: Stadium Dream

In her statement, another possible suitor is explicitly mentioned:

"St. Luke’s has been negotiating appropriately with multiple developers and parties, including the State of Idaho," she said. "No deal or agreement has been reached with any party at this time.”

While the City, CCDC and owners of the Boise Hawks owners may hope to land this deal - they will have competition from others, and St. Lukes' specific mention of the State of Idaho as a competing suitor is interesting.

CCDC likely would not be able to take the land through eminent domain. Idaho State Code prevents an urban renewal district from taking this action unless a parcel is "dilapidated," among many other conditions. Acquiring this land would only come with the consent of SLHS. 

The other hurdle is financing.  The Statesman story notes that construction could cost north of $40 million and seems to indicate the cash would come from a newly created district of the Capital City Development Corporation.  CCDC funds many of its projects through tax increment financing. Essentially this works by taking all the tax dollars collected from increased property value in a district and funneling it to projects like this one.

Ultimately this spreads the tax burden to the rest of the city. As an example, a new ballpark would attract increased crowds - which could require extra police officers for traffic patrols, crowd control and the like.  The cost of those officers would not come from increased property value in the TIF district - instead the burden for that presence would come from taxpayers across the city who are not inside the district.  In the central core of Boise, tax revenues to agencies like BPD, ACHD, the Boise School District and others are fixed at the 1986 collection rates -- meaning agencies are getting the same dollars now as they did in 1986, despite increased costs. The burden for those services comes from residents and businesses throughout Boise.

What happens next will be interesting - with lots of parties involved and many complications ahead.

What do you think? I've turned on comments here as an experiment - feel free to share your thoughts: