The AquaSox have the bases load in the first inning against the Vancouver Canadians Tuesday evening at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett June 29th, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The AquaSox have the bases load in the first inning against the Vancouver Canadians Tuesday evening at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett June 29th, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett faces June deadline to present AquaSox stadium plan

“My site preference is where we secure AquaSox baseball for the next 30, 40, 50 years,” the team’s co-owner Chad Volpe said.

EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox have two months to present plans for an upgraded stadium or face monetary penalties.

By June, Major League Baseball wants to see plans to either rebuild or construct a new baseball stadium, as well as where the money would come from, AquaSox co-owner Chad Volpe said in an interview Monday.

It’s unclear what exactly would happen if Everett misses the deadline, Volpe said. It’s likely the team could be required to pay a six-figure fee for every season it isn’t compliant with stadium standards, Volpe said.

He added that the Seattle Mariners are a “willing partner” and want the High-A minor league team to stay in Everett — about 30 miles north of the big league team’s T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

“Worst-case scenario, we incur another significant fine, like we already have,” Volpe said at a public meeting last week. “At one point we sort of view that as the cost of doing business to make sure we stay here for the next 30 to 50 years. And if you amortize that fine over a period of time, it makes economic sense. At least that’s how we justify it.”

Everett has already spent over two years and more than $1.1 million looking into a new stadium. This still doesn’t secure the AquaSox’s place in the city for the next few decades, despite the team’s desire to stay.

“Would there be a point where, for us or any other team, they say, ‘You’re going to lose the team?’” Volpe said. “Yeah, probably. When that is? I have no idea. No one has any idea, so it’s just tough to say.”

Could Everett be in real danger of losing the AquaSox?

“In my personal opinion, yes,” Volpe said.

‘Is it ideal timing?’

In 2020, Major League Baseball took over and restructured the minor leagues, upping stadium requirements. Funko Field, the current home of the AquaSox, falls far below those benchmarks.

MLB has a rubric for its new standards. Points are assigned based on anything from dugouts to locker rooms and clubhouses. Much like an earned run average, a higher number is worse. Funko Field has 110 points. It needs to be under 10 points by Opening Day 2025, Volpe said.

The city is exploring three options to meet the new requirements: Remodel Funko Field; demolish and rebuild on the current Funko Field site; or build a new stadium near downtown, just east of Angel of the Winds Arena.

If no action is taken, the city could lose the team.

Building or upgrading the stadium could cost $40 to $80 million, according to an estimate in November from Shiels Obletz Johnsen, the developers the city hired to spearhead the project.

Updated estimates for a Funko Field remodel and a new stadium downtown could be available in April, city Project Manager Scott Pattinson said at a stadium fiscal advisory committee meeting last week.

A state-mandated environmental impact study for both sites is underway and set to finish in November. The “bulk” of the study should be done by August, Pattinson said. Site selection could come as early as this summer, city officials have said in the past.

The AquaSox learned of the June deadline in January. Last week was the first time Volpe mentioned it in a public meeting.

MLB is “very serious” about the deadline, but the league has also been accommodating in the past, Volpe said.

“Is it ideal timing? No, certainly not,” Volpe said. “But at some point I can see where MLB and the Mariners looking at not just us, but other teams, and saying: ‘We’ve been flexible. We’ve given you time but we need to start putting in deadlines and having repercussions if you don’t hit those.’”

So is a June deadline realistic?

“Our goal has been, and continues to be, meeting the June deadline,” city spokesperson Simone Tarver said in an email. “The work of the fiscal advisory committee is already underway, and our $7.4 million state funding was locked in during the last legislative session. We continue to work with team ownership and other key partners to evaluate our options and determine the best path forward.”

‘My site preference’

A June 2023 study ranked the downtown site as the strongest contender for a new AquaSox stadium.

The study, paid for by the AquaSox, compared the site options using a point system. The downtown site came in with 231 points, while Funko Field scored 155. Much like runs batted in, a higher number is better.

The site options were scored on parking, size, existing infrastructure, utilities, environmental impacts, site readiness and property ownership, among other factors.

Volpe didn’t disclose his personal preference between the two sites.

“My site preference is where we secure AquaSox baseball for the next 30, 40, 50 years, and I can eventually retire and my kids can take over the family business,” he told The Daily Herald.

At the committee meeting, Pattinson outlined a potential funding plan for the stadium. The advisory committee’s role is to help finalize a plan and present it to the City Council for a vote.

Everett already has $7.4 million from the state for the project.

The AquaSox also pledged between $5 to $10 million.

The county agreed to commit an undisclosed amount, with a conservative estimate of $5 million in city documents.

Other potential funding streams were under review by the committee, with the following estimated revenues:

• $35 million through a business and occupation tax increase.

• $10 million through the sale of undisclosed “city assets.”

• $10 million through a “Tax Increment Financing” increase in property taxes, to reflect an increase in assessed home values — since the stadium “could be promoted as a significant catalyst for development.”

• $5 million in “corporate contribution.”

• $5 million in park impact fees, though that would only work for the downtown site, and a draft report notes a number of caveats, including: “TBD if qualified.”

• $3.5 to 6 million in real estate excise taxes.

Opening Day 2027

The downtown site sits west of I-5, on the block between Hewitt, Broadway and Pacific avenues. This site ranked high in proximity to other amenities, such as Angel of the Winds Arena, and restaurants and bars downtown. Nearby public transit, including the future light rail station set to open in 2037, also boosted its rating.

However, this site’s weaknesses lie mostly in property ownership. The city would need to acquire and demolish up to 20 businesses located on that block.

The 2023 study estimated the property alone would cost about $18 million.

Funko Field, owned by Everett Public Schools, has the opposite issue. The district leases the stadium to the AquaSox and it doubles as a venue for school sports. The property is already secured and has the sewer lines and storm drainage systems needed for a stadium.

However, this is the smaller site. The 7-acre plot would leave barely enough room to build a new stadium, and almost no room to expand the stadium if needed in the future. This also wouldn’t resolve the schedule overlap between the AquaSox and school sports.

If all goes to the developer’s projected plan, an upgraded AquaSox stadium could be ready by Opening Day 2027, whether at Funko Field or downtown.

The AquaSox play their first home game of this season April 9, against the Eugene Emeralds — a team also facing an uncertain future due to MLB’s updated stadium standards.

Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized a response from city spokesperson Simone Tarver.

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

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