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September 7, 2023
Across all three Integrus offices, we are proud to strengthen our communities through design. Our recent work on The Podium is a notable example of how we partner with others to build toward project goals that create great architecture while stretching beyond to its surroundings. The Podium does exactly this, it is a world-class sporting facility that connects and expands connectivity of the city core by attracting tourism, driving economic growth, and creating a new gathering space for the broader community.
The dream for what became The Podium started decades ago with Spokane looking for ways to build upon its existing reputation as a sports destination. A goal for a marquee indoor venue that would attract regional, national, and international events while providing world-class facilities for local activities, was identified. Feasibility studies began in the 1990s and through a sustained partnership between the city, county, state, and local sports organizations a plan was formed to build and fund a new multipurpose facility in the heart of Spokane. In 2016, the “three-legged stool” of partners emerged with Spokane Sports, the Public Facilities District and Spokane Parks developing a public funding model that would incorporate lease exchanges on adjacent land with the Parks Department.
Integrus partnered with Lydig Construction to form a progressive design-build team to deliver the best value for project stakeholders. This team assisted in clarifying project vision, creating proformas for different sports to assess viability, helping to perform cost analysis reports on ROI while taking into consideration funding sources, feasibility studies to assess viable locations, making recommendations on property purchases, and managing regulatory groups. Getting the full team aligned on project goals and then proceeding with transparent communication and collaboration leveraged everyone's expertise in the same direction.
The site is key to this project's success. The building sits on a dramatic basalt cliff overlooking the north bank of the Spokane River and the recently revitalized downtown Riverfront Park. Although this site seems obvious in hindsight, it had to overcome some significant challenges to make it work. The site was part of the old industrial core but was bypassed by the cleanup efforts that created the riverside Expo 74 campus. It required working with significantly contaminated soils, blasting 30,000 cubic yards of basalt, vacating a street, and coordinating acquisition from five different property owners.
These obstacles were worth overcoming to bring top sporting events into the city core instead of pushing them to the outskirts as often happens with these venues. The dramatic site helps sell the location to event organizers and the proximity to walkable restaurants and hotels brings in tourism dollars from traveling teams into the local economy.
The full project team knew the building could not be a typical boring box but rather needed to be an icon to attract events and form an architectural edge for the park along the river. The budget, however, needed to focus on building functions and delivering for the athlete experience. To accomplish both goals, our design team prioritized the fieldhouse as the strong performance-focused box and then grouped the other spectator and training functions along one spine wrapping the edge of the building. Together, this creates an experience zone that efficiently stacks functions and brings in natural light and views.
The spine is wrapped in a terracotta-colored metal rainscreen that elegantly defines parts of the building and forms a dramatic entry experience. Our in-house structural engineers developed a bowstring truss system that has received national recognition for its innovative use of steel to create a 250-foot-long clear span over the fieldhouse while not obstructing views and reducing project costs.
The Podium opened in December 2021 and has already hosted record-setting events, becoming recognized as the “Best New Sports Venue in the U.S.” by Sports Travel Magazine. The building has brought in national track championships, regional volleyball tournaments, judo, wrestling, basketball and more. The featured 200-meter banked track is hydraulically controlled to allow it to store flat, and due to the strength of the system, it is the only facility in the country that can hold other sporting events over the banked corners. In the building's first year it played host to over 21,000 athletes, 2,000 out of town officials, coaches, and VIPs, with over 33,000 spectators.
The Podium has been a huge success as a sporting facility, but it has grown to be much more, becoming a place that serves the greater Spokane community. During construction, our team took advantage of the design-build process to make last minute changes to the building that allowed for a new occupancy classification. This opened the building to new revenue streams and community events such as high school graduations, without any added project cost. We were also able to add additional acoustical treatments allowing the big fieldhouse floor to become a concert venue, thus filling a gap in the regional music market. Where previously many bands passed over the Spokane area, increasingly more bands book The Podium and the community is able to use the building as their own.
The Podium's success stretches beyond the building itself into the adjacent neighborhood and greater community. Before construction, it was estimated it would bring in $11 million-$20 million annually in direct tourism spending. In the first year alone, that number has been dramatically exceeded with an estimated $45 million coming into the community from new events.
The Podium has also spurred renewed interest from investors and commercial real estate development in the nearby industrial North Bank neighborhood. An estimated $36 million has changed hands in recent sales, with $19 million in new developments and over two dozen renovations and remodels permitted, planned, underway, or completed, resulting in $55 million in growth and development on the North Bank.
The community of project partners including the Public Facilities District, Spokane Sports, Lydig Construction, and Integrus, along with our many others, worked collaboratively to maximize success of The Podium. We are excited to contribute to the continued benefit emerging civic spaces bring to our community.
Dan Snook is an architect and associate at Integrus, focused on civic work and hospitality projects.