A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

EVERETT — Nathanael Engen opened Black Forest Mushrooms on Hewitt Avenue in December. Now his downtown Everett business could be razed as the city discusses putting a new Everett AquaSox stadium there.

If the city moves forward on plans for a new downtown stadium on the east side of Broadway, Black Forest Mushrooms could be one of about 20 businesses displaced.

The city has failed to keep business owners up to date on the stadium project, Engen said in a virtual stadium public comment session held by the city earlier this month.

“My largest concern thus far has been the lack of communication directly to businesses,” Engen said at the time. “At no point did anybody reach out to our direct contact information on file with the city … We were able to find out through other channels, unfortunately.”

Everett has narrowed its quest to find a home for the new stadium to two locations: downtown or the current Funko Field site.

If the city chooses to build downtown, it would need to spend just under $18 million to acquire the property and demolish the buildings there.

The roughly 12½-acre site sits just east of Angel of the Winds Arena, between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. It’s about half a mile west of I-5 on the eastern edge of downtown.

(Kate Erickson / The Herald)

(Kate Erickson / The Herald)

The city is set to pick a final site this fall after outside consultants complete state-mandated environmental impact studies on the project.

In 2020, Major League Baseball unveiled a list of new stadium requirements when it took over minor league teams. Funko Field would require major upgrades to meet these standards.

That meant the city had to choose between spending millions to upgrade Funko, replacing the existing stadium or building a new stadium elsewhere. To do nothing would risk losing the team. In 2022, the city began looking into building a new stadium to keep the AquaSox in Everett.

A new stadium could cost between $40 million and $80 million, according to a developer’s estimate. It could be ready as early as the 2027 season. The project was pitched as a 3,500- to 5,000-seat outdoor, multi-use stadium that could double as an outdoor venue for other events. Commercial buildings could also be built on the border of the new stadium site, bringing several new businesses to downtown Everett.

The city must also consider the needs of Funko Field’s owner, Everett Public Schools, which uses the venue for high school sports.

The state has already committed $7.4 million to the project, and the AquaSox have pledged between $5 million and $10 million either though direct capital or related revenue.

An additional $20 million to $45 million is expected to come from grants the city plans to apply for, Ben Franz-Knight, a project manager with developer Shiels Obletz Johnsen, said in November.

Steve Hottinger, owner of Pro Muffler & Brake on Wall Street, said he first heard of the stadium project when a Daily Herald reporter contacted him last week.

“Well, I’d hope they choose another location,” he said in an interview.

Howard Bargreen, owner of the Bargreen’s Coffee Company chain, doubts the city can manage such a project. He hasn’t been impressed with the city’s management of other sites, such as Angel of the Winds Arena.

“If we’re going to spend $70 million on this project, my guess is it will be mismanaged and not taken care of very well,” Bargreen, whose company has a coffee stand at Hewitt and Broadway, said at the public comment session. “It will be part of the government’s edifice complex, where they like to build a lot of stuff to put their names on it, then not take care of it. Sadly, that’s my observation since 1959.”

The owners of Bayside Cafe closed their doors for a day after hearing the news.

“We need to take today to visit locations and figure out a game plan to keep our business alive,” they wrote in a Facebook post.

Building a baseball stadium downtown, adjacent to Angel of the Winds Arena, could put Everett on the map as a state and regional entertainment hub. Doing so would put Everett in league with cities such as Tulsa, Memphis and Columbus, according to one study.

The proposed downtown site is now home to a restaurant, a coffee kiosk, the Everett Flea Market, office spaces, a gas station, a paint store, auto repair shops and other industrial supply stores and warehouses. Some of the buildings were built as early as the 1930s.

Despite the potential for his warehouse to be demolished, Tim Pavolka, vice president of Performance Radiator, thinks a new stadium will “renew” downtown.

“We could go anywhere,” he said in an interview. “Downtown needs stuff like this. If you don’t do stuff like this in the downtown core of the city, the core of the city will rot.”

He said communication from the city has been “sucky,” but this situation isn’t new to him.

“We’ve been down this road a couple of times,” he said. “We continue to evolve, I hope.”

Studies show the downtown site’s proximity to other amenities, parking access, walkability and access to transportation make it a strong contender for a stadium.

However, this would be the most expensive option, and the most difficult to develop, consultants found. Along with demolishing existing buildings, the elevation of the property may require excavation to level out the land. This location also offers little room for future expansion and the city might have to rework the utility structure to support a stadium.

Meanwhile, Funko Field is one of the oldest active ballparks in the minor leagues.

The field got a $5 million upgrade in 1998, but falls short of modern stadium requirements. For example, Funko Field currently has parking capacity for 800 vehicles, less than half of the 1,400 required by Major League Baseball.

That site south of downtown would be a tight fit for a new stadium, according to two studies done last year. The complex is 7 acres, including the current baseball field.

A 2023 study commissioned by the AquaSox owners showed the city might have to purchase close to an additional acre near the complex to make room for a new stadium.

Still, this would be the cheapest location for a new stadium, as the rest of the land is already secured and the utilities are in place to support a stadium.

Staying at Funko Field, however, might interrupt the current schedule, adding onto the timing conflicts already present between the school district and the AquaSox.

The studies found this site also lacks in its proximity to public transit, other restaurants and amenities and would leave little to no room for expansion in the future.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated an attempt was made to reach out to the Everett city spokesperson. That was not the case. Howard Bargreen was also misquoted in his comments.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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