Time to Start on a "New Pile of Stones" 

GBAD Goes to Plan B, or Maybe Plan C

"I think the issue of tearing down the Qwest Arena has been sufficiently put to bed," said Greater Boise Auditorium District Board Member Michael Wilson at the board's Jan. 10 meeting.

In their pursuit of increasing Boise's convention space, GBAD explored multiple options, including a controversial proposal from board chairman Stephenson Youngerman: buying and demolishing the neighboring arena for a brand new facility.

 "We said we would explore Qwest Arena until no stone is left unturned," said Board Member Mike Fitzgerald. "I think it's time to start on a new pile of stones."

The board shelved the idea, leaving two final two options: build an entirely new center on two blocks of land between Myrtle and Front streets or remodel the existing Boise Centre.

In a conceptual plan for building a new facility on the now vacant lot, the district could net another 50,000 square feet of convention space in a two-phase project.

The first phase could include an approximate 32,000 square feet, including new meeting rooms and a larger lobby entrance area.

The second phase of architect Neil Hosford's proposal would see a second level for more convention, ballroom and meeting space.

"We have a cash reserve of over $10 million," Pat Rice, general manager of the Boise Centre told the GBAD board.

Phase one would exhaust the $10 million and could take five years to complete, but at least the city would have convention space open in the interim. And if room tax revenues hold strong (read: the economy holds up), $20 million may not be out of the question.

The most attractive and perhaps optimistic aspect of the plan is the potential for development of the other half of the lot between Myrtle and Front.

"Once the district committed to constructing phase one, I think you could essentially market some really viable convention facility areas," said Hosford. "I think it really makes this site really valuable and desirable."

If a new facility is built, GBAD would be operating two separate facilities--one (the existing Boise Centre) for local events and a new building for long-sought-after larger conventions.

The board disagreed on the need of a public bond on top of GBAD's cash reserves.

Fitzgerald said that regardless of the money raised, either option would be outside of the board's funding. He cited the success of an unnamed sister city's ballot initiative. He also asked why not--if a bond is needed for completion of phase one--go all out and ask for an extra $20 million for phase two.

The board ultimately agreed to have Hosford put together a detailed breakdown of the proposed plan, including a more accurate cost and engineering analysis. The board will review it in the coming months.

"Well, this is an idea for us to put in our pipes and smoke it," Wilson said. 

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