River Park Complex multi-use sports complex

An artist’s rendering of Portneuf Capital’s proposed multi-use sports complex at the River Park Complex, located at the former Hoku plant site in Pocatello.

POCATELLO — The local businessmen working to transform the defunct Hoku polysilicon plant into a robust industrial park have proposed to add a versatile multimillion-dollar sports complex to the site.

Portneuf Capital — a limited-liability company that includes Soda Springs natives LD Barthlome and Chad Hansen as well as Pocatello High School graduate Darren Miller — presented the proposed massive pressurized air-dome facility to the Pocatello Development Authority on April 21.

“We have reached out to numerous community members from the organized soccer clubs to lacrosse teams to football and volleyball coaches, but I think this facility will primarily be used as an indoor soccer facility,” Barthlome told members of the PDA Board of Directors. “I’m passionate about football, because that’s what I played, but it’s a good concession to make it an indoor soccer field and I think this will be a great complement to the Portneuf Wellness Complex.”

The proposed multi-use sports complex would be located on the recently rebranded 68-acre former Hoku plant site, which was renamed the River Park Complex earlier this year. Portneuf Capital acquired the property from the PDA for $1.25 million in December 2019.

The group over the past several months has worked to tear down all of the steel structures that were installed in anticipation of the Hoku polysilicon plant, Barthlome told the PDA board.

Barthlome and his Portneuf Capital partners are in the preliminary planning stages for the project and have been in conversation with Air Structures American Technologies Inc., a New York-based company that has erected air-supported structures in over 80 cities, 39 states and 11 different countries since it was founded in 1963.

The project, estimated to cost a total of $13 million, includes two separate facilities — a renovation of an existing 60,000-square-foot building constructed to serve as a reactor building for the former Hoku plant and a newly constructed 125,000-square-foot pressurized air dome.

According to a document describing the project included in the PDA agenda on April 21, the 125,000 square feet of air dome space is climate controlled and consists of a thick vinyl-coated polyester and cable-net shell built atop a concrete foundation. Similar to a vehicle tire, air pressure inside the dome structure keeps the walls and ceiling afloat.

An artificial turf surface will cover about 80 percent of the air dome’s floor space, or 97,500 square feet, and will be divided into six fields that will each measure approximately 13,500 square feet. The other 20 percent, 27,500 square feet, would be a hard surface dedicated for volleyball or basketball events.

The project entails connecting the air dome to the reactor building with a breezeway. The reactor building features a 40,000-square-foot first floor that could be used to house office space for sports clinics or lectures, a training or rehabilitation area and a space for concessions. The top floor of the reactor building consists of 20,000 square feet with 40-foot ceilings intended to serve as a multi-use space. Barthlome told the PDA board that the tentative plan is to construct batting cages and pitching mounds for baseball and softball inside the top floor of the reactor building.

“This facility would be the largest multi-purpose sports facility in the state of Idaho,” Portneuf Capital wrote in the document describing the project. “It would serve the local area by providing a top-tier venue for events, tournaments and various sports to conduct activities in a weather-controlled environment.”

In addition to the construction of the facilities, Portneuf Capital intends to install all of the necessary infrastructure for the project, including roads, parking lots, utilities and landscaping. The entire River Park Complex is located within the North Portneuf tax increment financing, or TIF, district, which is administered by the PDA. A TIF district is a tool municipalities use to incentivize development that involves freezing property tax values on a particular area of land for the general tax rolls at pre-development levels.

Then, any additional property taxes resulting from residential and commercial development inside the district — called an increment — will be diverted from the general tax rolls to an urban renewal TIF district fund and will be used to cover infrastructure costs. The TIF district funds will reimburse the developers for their public infrastructure investments over the course of a set period of time. Once the developers are reimbursed for their infrastructure improvements via the TIF district, the district will be retired and the full value of Portneuf Capital’s residential and commercial development will be added to the general tax rolls.

On the meeting, the PDA board voted unanimously to conduct a feasibility study of the multi-use sports complex to determine if portions of the project would be included in the North Portneuf TIF district funding mechanisms.

“This will be the only multi-use sports facility dedicated completely to youth sports in the state of Idaho,” Barthlome said. “We’ve been working on this project for quite some time and are looking forward to addressing a huge need in the community.”