UPDATE: Clark College likes baseball, won’t pay for stadium

School president clarifies position

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: August 26, 2011, 8:01 PM

 

Did you know?

Under the proposal to bring the Class A Yakima Bears to Vancouver, Clark College has pledged to lease the land for a stadium to the team at no cost and allow use of the school’s parking lots; the land and parking would be worth approximately $4 million.

College's position

From: Knight, Robert

Sent: Friday, August 26, 2011 8:26 AM

To: College Master List

Subject: Message from the President: Update on the proposed multi-use stadium

College community,

Discussions are continuing at many levels regarding the proposal to build a multi-use facility at Clark College.

On Wednesday evening, the Clark College Board of Trustees received an update on the project during their work session. (Trustee Jack Burkman, who also serves on Vancouver City Council, has recused himself from all of these discussions at the college.)

They also discussed the project at their monthly meeting. The trustees said they were gratified to know that the college had reached out to faculty, staff and students and that the response was overwhelmingly positive, based on assurances that no college dollars would be used to build or maintain the facility and that, based on the times when the facility would be used, there should be no substantial parking impact to our college community.

The trustees also noted the importance of continuing to listen to feedback and concerns from neighborhood associations and to encourage the owners of the Yakima Bears to do everything they reasonably can to mitigate those concerns.

Trustee Royce Pollard noted that it has been important for the college to gather information and listen but expressed concern that, since the college has not yet taken a formal position on the planned facility, some members of the community might believe that the college was “indifferent” to the proposal. He put it simply: “People are waiting to hear from us.”

At last night’s meeting, the trustees approved the following statement.

“Following a process that solicited feedback from the full college community including students, faculty and staff and based on the positive feedback that was received…

Making it clear that no college dollars are to be used to build or maintain the proposed facility…

If the ongoing discussions between the college and Short Season LLC result in a positive conclusion on all outstanding issues…

We, the Clark College Board of Trustees, believe that a multi-use community facility, proposed to be built at Clark College, could offer new and exciting opportunities for our students, the college and other community organizations.

Let’s play ball!”

The vote was 4-0. Board Chair Rhona Sen Hoss, Board Vice Chair Jada Rupley, Trustee Sherry Parker and Trustee Royce Pollard voted yes. Trustee Jack Burkman recused himself from the vote.

The Columbian featured an article about Wednesday’s workshop by the Clark County Commission regarding possible funding alternatives: http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/aug/24/commissioners-float-new-baseball-proposal-to-yakim/

That article included a quote from County Commissioner Tom Mielke about Clark College and its financial resources. We know that his statement is untrue because three consecutive years of state budget cuts continue to impact our ability to serve our students and more budget cuts are pending. That statement was also disheartening because most of the donations to the college through the Clark College Foundation are earmarked for specific purposes, such as scholarships, programs and equipment that ultimately benefit our students. Those that aren’t earmarked are no longer used just to provide a margin of excellence for our students. With state funding now at 41% or our budget (it used to be more than 60%), we need ongoing donor support to fund program needs at the college.

Discussions about the multi-use facility are ongoing at the city and county level. Additionally, the Neighborhood Association Council of Clark County and the Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance have scheduled a public forum for August 31 at 7 p.m. at the Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

We will continue to keep you updated on the status of the proposed facility. I hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us as well.

Bob Knight

President

With no one rushing forward to fill a 30 percent funding gap in a proposal to build a minor league baseball stadium in Vancouver, Clark College President Bob Knight made one thing clear in a Friday email: No college money will be used to build or maintain the stadium.

Knight’s mass email was sent two days after Clark County commissioners had a work session on financing a proposal to bring the Class A Yakima Bears to Vancouver.

Commissioners rejected the team’s proposal of a 70-30 public-private split to build a $22.7 million stadium at Clark College.

Commissioner Steve Stuart offered a counterproposal: The public would pay 40 percent (and use the stadium approximately 40 percent of the time) through an admissions tax. The team would pay 30 percent; the remaining 30 percent ($6 million to $7 million) would come from private investors.

The team would arrange for financing and pay ongoing maintenance and operations costs, approximately $400,000 a year.

Commissioner Marc Boldt supported Stuart. Commissioner Tom Mielke said he won’t support the proposal unless the public can vote on the admissions tax.

The owners of the Bears were disappointed that commissioners did not set a public hearing for the admissions tax, which would add 5 percent to the cost of tickets to movies (at major chain theaters, not single-screen theaters), the Clark County Fair, and concerts at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.

Under Stuart’s proposal, jurisdictions (the cities of Vancouver and Battle Ground and the county) would get the revenues for the first five years.

Over the next 20 years, $800,000 a year in admissions tax revenues would be dedicated to paying off stadium debt. If revenues were short, the team would make up the difference; if revenues were higher, the excess would return to the jurisdictions.

Stuart said Friday that he wanted his proposal to spark interest among potential community investors. If investors step forward, he said, the county can schedule a public hearing on the tax.

Still in Yakima, for now

The Bears’ lease in Yakima does not expire until 2015. When owners announced in May plans to move to Vancouver, they had hoped to have a stadium ready for the 2012 season.

“I don’t see any way for it (the stadium) to get built for next season,” co-owner and general manager K.L. Wombacher told the Yakima Herald-Republic. “Based on the 90-day rule we have heard for obtaining building permits, there is no way to get the construction scheduled.”

Ron Arp, a spokesman for Short Season LLC, the company Wombacher owns with co-owners Mike and Laura McMurray, said Friday that “everyone is focused on how we can get a workable plan in place between now and mid-September.”

The team has exclusive negotiating rights in the Portland-Vancouver market through mid-September. The market is the largest metro area without a professional baseball team, and for the Bears to secure an extension of its exclusive right to the market, the owners will have to show minor league officials that they are making progress. Other cities in the market, most notably Milwaukie, Ore., have expressed interest in getting a team.

Mielke is wrong, Knight says

During Wednesday’s meeting, Mielke asked why Clark College wasn’t putting up money. He said the school “has more money than God.”

The college has agreed to lease the land — the stadium would be east of Interstate 5, west of Fort Vancouver Way, at the site of the college’s ball field — to the team for free in exchange for using the stadium. The college would also open up its parking lots, said college spokeswoman Barbara Kerr.

Knight wrote in his email that the Clark College Board of Trustees discussed the stadium proposal Wednesday evening.

Trustee Jack Burkman, who also serves on Vancouver City Council, has recused himself from all of these discussions at the college, Knight wrote.

“The trustees said they were gratified to know that the college had reached out to faculty, staff and students and that the response was overwhelmingly positive, based on assurances that no college dollars would be used to build or maintain the facility and that, based on the times when the facility would be used, there should be no substantial parking impact to our college community.

“The trustees also noted the importance of continuing to listen to feedback and concerns from neighborhood associations and to encourage the owners of the Yakima Bears to do everything they reasonably can to mitigate those concerns,” Knight wrote.

“Trustee Royce Pollard noted that it has been important for the college to gather information and listen but expressed concern that, since the college has not yet taken a formal position on the planned facility, some members of the community might believe that the college was “indifferent” to the proposal. He put it simply: ‘People are waiting to hear from us.’ ”

Knight wrote that the trustees — Pollard, Rhona Sen Hoss, Jada Rupley and Sherry Parker — voted to adopt a statement in support of the proposal, which read in part:

“We, the Clark College Board of Trustees, believe that a multi-use community facility, proposed to be built at Clark College, could offer new and exciting opportunities for our students, the college and other community organizations. Let’s play ball!”

As for Mielke’s remark about the school’s financial resources, Knight wrote, “We know that his statement is untrue because three consecutive years of state budget cuts continue to impact our ability to serve our students and more budget cuts are pending. That statement was also disheartening because most of the donations to the college through the Clark College Foundation are earmarked for specific purposes, such as scholarships, programs and equipment that ultimately benefit our students. Those that aren’t earmarked are no longer used just to provide a margin of excellence for our students. With state funding now at 41% or our budget (it used to be more than 60%), we need ongoing donor support to fund program needs at the college.”

A study on the baseball proposal commissioned by the Columbia River Economic Development Council was overwhelmingly positive. The study, done by Paul Dennis and Eric Hovee, found the project would generate $206.5 million over the expected 20 years of public-private investment.

That figure includes $34.5 million in construction, $4.6 million annually from professional baseball and $4 million annually from having the stadium used for regional and national tournaments.

After capital debt was paid, the stadium would be publicly owned, with the most likely owner being Clark College, the team has said.

The Neighborhood Association Council of Clark County and the Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance have scheduled a public forum on the proposal, 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

Stephanie Rice: http://www.facebook.com/reporterrice; http://www.twitter.com/col_clarkgov; stephanie.rice@columbian.com.