Arnada weighs baseball proposal

Neighborhood gathers information on project

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 

A proposed $23 million stadium at Clark College would be separated from the Arnada neighborhood by Interstate 5, but McLoughlin Boulevard runs under the freeway and would make the stadium an easy walk from one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

That’s a prospect that, depending on whom you ask, is as exciting as a game-winning home run or as sickening as if your favorite pitcher just blew a no-hitter.

Suze Marshall, co-chair of the neighborhood association, said members are gathering as much information as possible by attending every meeting, forum and luncheon where the Yakima Bears are being discussed.

Residents have raised concerns about traffic, stadium lighting and noise. They worry that instead of using one of the 2,900 parking spots at Clark College, fans would park in their neighborhood.

The neighborhood association is sponsoring a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Community Room at Vancouver Housing Authority, 2500 Main St.

Representatives from the Class A minor league team are expected to attend, as are leaders from surrounding neighborhoods and county, city and Clark College officials.

Capacity is limited to 88 people.

Marshall, asked last week whether the neighborhood association would try to legally challenge the stadium should the proposal get that far, said it would be premature to comment “on any discussion of action we may or may not take at this time.”

For a stadium to be built, the Clark County commissioners would have to approve a 5 percent countywide admissions tax; revenues would be used to pay a portion of construction bonds.

For the commissioners to approve the tax, the Vancouver City Council — because the majority of revenues would be collected from within city limits — would have to agree to commit to funding a share of the bonds.

Baseball fan David Lawson hopes it all works out.

He and his wife have lived in the southeast section of the Arnada neighborhood for eight years, having moved there from near Southwest Washington Medical Center.

He enjoys being able to walk to parks and small shops, and he would welcome the chance to be able to walk with his children over to a baseball game.

He said there’s ample parking at Clark College, and he’s surprised some neighbors are so concerned that people will park in the neighborhood.

And if they do park on the street for 38 home games a year, so what?

“I have a driveway and a garage. People can park on the street. It’s not a negative,” he said.

Lawson also said the multiuse stadium would be used for reasons other than minor league baseball; according to a draft proposal, the team would make the facility available for events (concerts, festivals, etc.) for a certain number of days at reduced fees.

“Why not embrace that?” Lawson said.

Leaders of the Shumway Neighborhood, north of Arnada, opted not to welcome the idea.

At a June 2 meeting attended by 15 residents, people shared concerns about parking, alcohol (beer would be sold at games), lighting and noise, particularly on behalf of Arnada neighbors.

Clark College spokeswoman Barbara Kerr said parking should not be an issue, because games would be on summer evenings and the school’s lots should be sufficient along with street parking on Fort Vancouver Way and McLoughlin Boulevard east of Interstate 5.

Ron Arp, a spokesman for the Bears’ owners, said the stadium would be built approximately 18 feet down from surface level, mitigating noise and light pollution.

The association voted 14-1 to oppose the use of any public funds to construct the stadium.

The stadium would actually be in the Central Park neighborhood, but homes there would be separated from the stadium by Clark College and Hudson’s Bay High School.

Dick Malin, chairman of the neighborhood association, said they heard a presentation on the stadium proposal at their May 25 meeting but they haven’t taken an official stance.

“If I was to take a poll of Central Park neighbors who are paying attention, you’d probably have a balance between those who want it and those who don’t,” Malin said.

But everyone would agree they need more information, he said.

“My personal opinion is baseball is OK, but it is not OK in Central Park and it should not receive any taxpayer support,” he said.

He said the public officials should be looking to locate a stadium in a place that needs to be enhanced.

“We’ve got some of those places in Vancouver,” Malin said. “We’re putting it in our front yard, and we have a big problem with that.”

Under the proposal, the team would lease land from Clark College and, as part of the rent, would allow the college’s teams to use it.

Wednesday’s Arnada meeting will be an opportunity for residents to ask questions, but crucial meetings for the project will be when the county commissioners and the Vancouver City Council have work sessions.

Those sessions have yet to be scheduled.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.