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A stadium, or ‘Xanadu?’ One man’s idea to build community gardens instead of a ballpark – UPDATE with answers to your questions

BOISEDEV MEMBER PREVIEW STORY

With a developer hoping to build a stadium in Boise with a mix of public and private funds, one local man has another idea.

A community garden with a series of covered indoor spaces under domes.

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“I don’t like the idea of the stadium – there’s a whole bunch of reasons for that,” Kaden Sinclair of Boise said. “I’m not the kind of person who says ‘I don’t like this’ and protests and just talks about it without coming up with something. If you don’t like something being proposed – and I don’t – come up with a solution to it, and that’s what I did.”

Sinclair serves as president of the Idaho Burners Alliance, a non-profit group dedicated to art and technology.

Last week, Sinclair took out a half page ad in the Boise Weekly touting his Gardens of Xanadu idea. The headline? “An Alternative to the Proposed Baseball Stadium”

Gardens of Xanadu ad in Boise Weekly.

What is Xanadu?

Sinclair describes the idea as a piece of land near Downtown Boise with a large community garden. Inside it would include a stage and a series of domes that could host a variety of activities. From art and performances to interactive light sculptures – maybe even a coffee shop or restaurant.

“People could learn how to code, learn how to build things – and also have a place that is a botanical garden that is a place they can go and watch a play or concert in the middle of the winter,” Sinclair said.

Idaho Burners Alliance already has a facility up and running on the Boise Bench near Fairview. Called Xanadu, the 5,000 square foot building that provides maker spaces, rehearsal space and more.

He said Gardens of Xanadu could be an outgrowth of the current idea.

“So we decided, all right, well, the building that we’ve got and the space we’ve got now is a space to make stuff. I think it would be cool to have a place to play with the (things being made).”

Sinclair said the idea has some similarities to Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, but he thinks more needs to happen.

“They are not engaging the community to make things for JUMP. It’s very uninviting and austere. It’s a wonderful concept and has the potential to offer a lot to the community, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t address what I see as the needs over the last four and a half years.”

He said he isn’t trying to knock JUMP, but thinks the community needs more.

After the initial publication of this story, Sinclair wanted to emphasize that the comments were his alone, and aren’t those of the board of the Idaho Burners Alliance. He also said that this project is separate from IBA.

Bringing the idea to life

While Sinclair admits it’s a big idea, he said it’s important to start with something achievable and work from there. Right now, Gardens of Xanadu is an idea. No land is secured. Though he’d like to see a site close to Downtown Boise, the project is not yet to that stage.

“The best approach for something of this scale is to approach it in a compartmentalized and realistic growth set,” he said. “It’s not an all or nothing. There is a kernel: a stage, some interactive light sculpture and some art the community has already done. So you build that first and then you build around it.”

He said building the first few modules could happen on a smaller site – then move if the community buys into the idea.

“The concept of putting this out there is a bit of a fishing idea. ‘Guys, if you like this, is there a good spot you’d like to see it?’ Can we come up with as a community where should this go?”

He says starting small and working toward a bigger idea can work.

“You have a starting point that is realistic but you also have an endpoint that is a grand vision of what may happen. Those aren’t mutually exclusive.”

What he doesn’t want to see – is a stadium project.

“The other thing that bothers me about the stadium is the obscurity and misrepresentation,” he said. “The way it’s being proposed is like ‘stadiums are so good for cities in so many ways’, but they are actually not.”

Update: Your questions, answered

After publication of this story, members of the BoiseDev community had additional questions that we went to get answers for.

First, Sinclair admits that the Gardens of Xanadu and the Boise Sports Park could both exist. But, he said, two competing visions could provide funding challenges.

“I think the potential funding and energy directed would not be available to both,” he said. “The general concept is also to evoke a sense of choice in people, that perhaps they don’t have to agree with either or both and that they can come up with what they see is best for our community.”

He thinks providing an alternative idea also could “open the conversation to how to solve the original issues and concerns” with the stadium project.

Funding is the other common question. With the funding formula for the Boise Sports Park not fully explained and the mix of public dollars not fleshed out – it’s a common question for these types of big ideas.

“I am solely funding and creating the project at this point,” Sinclair said.

He said the project can only go so far on his own dime – and he will need help to make it happen beyond a vision.

He said the project would need revenue streams – including things like ticket sales and grant funding. He also mentions an idea around an online platform to code some of the giant light sculptures he envisions that could operate on a subscriber model to generate funding.

But for now, much like the stadium project, the funding model isn’t fully fleshed out.

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