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City Beat: Council hears another multimillion-dollar soccer pitch

Lake Country Soccer is the second complex in as many months proposing new soccer field developments

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A $10 million upgrade to the Lake Country Soccer Inc. complex at Cooper Park might be in the works at the same time a $12-$16 million multisports complex is proposed on the city’s northwest side.

At Springfield City Council’s Nov. 30 meeting, members voted 9-0 in declaring the intent to financially assist and fully support the Lake Country Soccer complex plan.

Bob Belote, director of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, told council members the Park Board and Lake Country Soccer have had a 35-year partnership, which includes a land lease. Currently, the Park Board owns the land used by Lake Country Soccer who leases it from the board. He said there is a crucial need to update the complex.

“The facility is older – it’s 25-30 years old on some of the infrastructure,” Belote said in an interview with Springfield Business Journal. “We also need it to be competitive with other communities in the sports tourism world.”

Belote said the planned improvements include the addition of eight turf fields and enhancements to Lake Country’s 10 grass fields. In a presentation to council, Belote said there is currently only one artificial turf field. Upgrades include a FIFA-approved championship field with seating for 3,500 people, new locker rooms, restrooms and meeting areas, according to his presentation.

“It would also include a spectator concourse area that would make us a lot more fan friendly with new food and beverage options, fan-friendly zones, picnic play area, additional shade spectator areas for families to kind of hang out while they are there on a busy tournament day,” Belote told council.

Belote said the upgrades would allow the city to bid on state championships, as well as national and regional tournaments. He said the improvements would make the park an anchor tournament destination, one of the recommendations made last fall in a sports tourism report by Phoenix-based consulting company Huddle Up Group.

Tracy Kimberlin, president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, spoke in favor of the project at the meeting, noting the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the travel industry.

“This kind of development, at this point in time, is music to the ears of the entire travel industry, particularly the hotels who are in desperate need of any kind of help that can be given,” Kimberlin said.

Belote suggested the city invest $5 million upfront on the project and then challenge the soccer communities or private donors to come up with a $5 million match. City spokesperson Cora Scott said the funding source has not been finalized, though it could come from the general fund, capital improvement sales and/or property taxes or possibly the issuance of bonds.

John Markey, executive director at Lake Country Soccer, said local donors are interested in the project but declined to identify them. He said the club has hired Oregon-based capital campaign company Cogeo to help raise funds.

“What I am super excited about is that we won’t have to do this in phases over the next two to three or four years. The idea is to do it all at once,” Belote said. “To do it all at one time is really a dream come true.”

The sports complex on the northwest side was proposed last month by Tulsa, Oklahoma, developer Rob Phillips of Philcrest Properties. He pitched the $12-$16 million complex on hundreds of acres near the Springfield-Branson National Airport and Chestnut Expressway corridor.

The plans call for a 90,000-square-foot venue with basketball courts, an indoor soccer field and a cafe. It also proposes one outdoor turf field and 11 grass fields.

Phillips originally asked the city to fund $4.4 million toward the project for infrastructure, but Rob Haik, principal with project architect H Design Group LLC, told SBJ the city only offered $2 million. He said the only change to the development plans is there likely will not be a fully funded public street going through the property connecting Chestnut and Interstate 44. He said there will be a private driveway instead, which will reduce costs significantly.

“By integrating or coordinating our efforts with the city, we will still be able to have these national or regional tournaments,” Haik said.

Council’s approved the following terms: payments to the developer after the complex is completed and the establishment of a community improvement district over the entire development to reimburse city costs.

Council also voted to initiate the annexation process of approximately 239 acres of private property at 5544 and 6006 W. State Highway 266 into the city as part of the sports complex. City officials say a public hearing on the annexation is scheduled Jan. 11 and a vote would be slated Jan. 25.

Affordable housing
Council is expected to vote Dec. 14 on blight designations of nine multifamily properties submitted for redevelopment by Keystone Family Homes LP.

The properties are the Cedarbrook, Glenwood, Villa Marie, Dogwood and Bolivar Road apartments, as well as complexes on East High Street, North Delaware Avenue, South Weaver Avenue and West Sunset Street.

At a Nov. 2 meeting, council gave the greenlight for Keystone Family Homes’ request for up to $22 million in housing revenue bonds through the city of Springfield’s Industrial Development Authority. Now, the group is seeking blight designations.

During a Nov. 30 public hearing, Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council the developers plan to enroll 297 units into the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program to rehabilitate them for $44 million. The units would convert from public housing to Section 8 housing and low-income housing for 40 years. In order to finance the properties, low-income housing tax credits and tax-exempt bonds would be used.

Kerner said the developer is requesting Chapter 99 property tax abatements, which require three elements: findings of blight, meeting the city’s comprehensive plan and proving the developer’s financial need for the incentive.

Kerner said city officials found only three of the nine properties were considered blighted: the Cedarbrook, Glenwood and Bolivar Road apartments. However, the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority found all nine to qualify as blighted.

Alice Barber, a member of Springfield Tenants Unite, spoke against the bill by saying the properties are not blighted areas and she is afraid nearby values would increase making it difficult on low-income families. As a result, she said it would create a greater need for affordable housing.

Keystone Family Homes is a partnership between the Housing Authority and BGC Advantage, an affordable housing developer that’s worked on 65 RAD projects.

CARES Act funds
Council voted unanimously in favor of accepting two Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act grants from the U.S. Department of Treasury and Greene County. The grants are part of the $34.4 million in federal funds that Greene County officials received over the summer.

A $34,689 grant goes to Springfield’s Department of Workforce Development to help with staffing costs. Another $71,150 goes to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department for expanded epidemiology and laboratory capacity through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The city’s fiscal 2021 budget will be amended in the amount of $105,839.

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