Updated: Jul 21
The city of Boise lost its Major League Baseball affiliation in 2020 after the MLB restructured minor league baseball and aimed to cut facilities that it didn’t consider adequate. Boise’s Memorial Stadium was one of those facilities.
Major League Baseball wants its remaining teams to improve their stadiums, and if they don’t, they’ll start moving teams. The threats are playing out in Spokane, where the Spokane Indians baseball team says it needs millions of dollars in stadium renovations.
Originally built in the 1950s, the Indians' ballpark at the Spokane County Fairgrounds has proved useful at minimal cost to taxpayers. The original construction cost was less than $600,000.
Now, the Indians want millions in cash from county taxpayers to cover a major portion of the $23 million-plus stadium renovations.
Avista Stadium has been renovated and upgraded many times.
Team officials told Spokane County Commissioners this week that they want the county to pledge to fund a certain dollar amount now, even though they cannot guarantee the stadium will operate in the black once its renovated. That means taxpayers paying now, and potentially later.
Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns repeatedly asked for assurances that the facility wouldn’t continue to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Team officials couldn’t give that guarantee.
The loss of MLB-affiliation in Boise hasn’t removed baseball from the city landscape. After the MLB left, Boise joined the Pioneer League and increased the number of games it hosts each year. The team’s president told the Idaho Press “the talent level of the Pioneer League will be significantly better than what we experienced in the Northwest League over the last 30 years. It’s a different brand of baseball, it’s set up to be a higher level of baseball.”
Taxpayers should not be held hostage by major league sports. Baseball is not a core function of government, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Every dollar spent on stadiums and sports teams are dollars that can't be spent on public safety and true public needs.
Boise hasn’t given in to MLB demands, and neither should Spokane. At the very least, taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill.