Clark College would not initially own stadium, Knight says

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In the evolving last-ditch effort to bring Class A baseball to Vancouver, Clark College President Bob Knight clarified Thursday that the school will not initially own the stadium proposed to be built on college property, as was reported earlier this week.

Instead, the state, which owns the property, has been negotiating with Short Season LLC, the company that owns the Yakima Bears.

Nothing has been agreed yet, said Barbara Kerr, spokeswoman for Clark College. But the state and Short Season are currently considering a 20-year term.

The state would lease the land for free in exchange for Clark College being able to use the stadium. After the 20-year term, the state would own the stadium, Kerr said.

Details that have been hashed over in private meetings are slowly becoming available this week, during which the biggest news has been that the baseball proposal is alive.

Because of a new funding proposal, on Tuesday it was announced that the Board of County Commissioners will have a public hearing to consider a 5 percent entertainment admissions tax.

The hearing will be 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

A copy of the draft ordinance, which will detail the events and activities subject to the 5 percent tax, will be available Friday. The tax would add 5 percent to the cost of a movie ticket, for example.

In May, owners of the Yakima Bears confidently predicted they would be moving the team to Vancouver. They wanted to be in the largest metro area in the country that does not have any level of minor league baseball team.

But local officials balked.

On Sept. 23 the team lost exclusive negotiating rights in the Portland metro area, leaving the owners of the Bears to watch from the dugout while community baseball backers staged a late rally.

A funding proposal sent to Bob Richmond, president of the Northwest League, included this breakdown of funding sources for the $19.5 million project: $11.8 million from the admissions tax, $4 million from Short Season LLC, $3.5 million from the Clark College Foundation and $225,000 from a construction sales tax rebate.

The Clark College Foundation was a surprise partner in the project.

Under the proposal, incoming donations for athletic scholarships would be invested in the stadium. In return, the team’s owners would pay 3 percent on the investments to the foundation annually, and that money would be used for athletic scholarships.

As Lisa Gibert, executive director of the foundation, wrote in an email Tuesday: “The Clark College Foundation is not committing any existing funds to the multiuse facility. We have agreed to accept donations on behalf of the multiuse facility (up to $3.5 million) that will in turn provide a revenue source for our athletic scholarships. The revenue source is, in essence, a return on the investment in the stadium and will be paid by the team to the Foundation.

“To be clear, the Foundation is not obligated to raise these funds,” Gibert wrote.

If commissioners approve the tax, the Vancouver City Council will have to agree that, for the life of the stadium debt, it will pay a portion of the debt even if a future city council decides to enact a citywide admissions tax for some other purpose. Several councilors have expressed reservations about making such a commitment.

If the tax is approved, Northwest League officials will discuss the proposal during meetings in early December.

If the move gets approved, construction would begin in 2012 and the team would play in Vancouver in 2013.

The team would play 38 home games a year at the 4,000-seat stadium, which would be built east of Interstate 5 and west of Fort Vancouver Way at the site of the existing ball field.

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