A soccer complex is in the works this summer next to Deer Lake Golf Course in northwest Springfield.
Project organizers are planning a late summer or early fall debut for the first phase, which will serve as the new home for the Sporting Springfield youth soccer club.
“These facilities will put us on a level-training field and a level-playing field with what all of our competition around the state uses,” Sporting Springfield Executive Director Eric Sorlie said. “We’ve been trying to train kids with two arms tied behind our backs.”
Sorlie said the development would provide fields for local youth soccer on par with those used in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Phase I calls for up to six Bermuda grass fields – a standard type of field for soccer – with lights. Sorlie said the fields would use the same grass as Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City team, of which Sporting Springfield is an affiliate.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, developer Rob Phillips is donating roughly 100 acres as part of a larger planned development with retail, restaurant and hotel amenities, said Stan Liedel, project consultant. Liedel has sports complex experience as the current general manager of Tulsa-based Titan Sports and Performance Center.
The retail component of the soccer complex planned at the Chestnut Expressway and Farm Road 107 intersection would be part of a third phase, which Liedel said has no estimated start date.
Phase II work is expected to start immediately after the first phase is complete, Sorlie said. The second phase calls for a nearly 100,000-square-foot indoor sports facility and up to four outdoor turf fields.
Liedel declined to disclose project costs, adding, “We’re still working through the numbers on that.”
He said the second phase would be considerably more expensive, due to the indoor facility.
“Right now, we’re just working on Phase I,” he said. “It’s to get the soccer club up and running there.”
While Sporting Springfield officials are hopeful fields will be ready by August, Liedel said that would be a quick turnaround.
“I would say sometime in the fall to have the first phase working,” he said. “We haven’t done anything other than the planning piece and we’re now just working with city and county officials for permitting and all that stuff. The quicker we can get through that process, the quicker the fields can get put up.”
Rob Haik, founding principal of project architect H Design Group LLC, said a general contractor has not yet been selected. Haik, who has prior project experience with Phillips, connected the developer with Tyler Thompson, Sporting Springfield’s board president.
“It seemed like it would just be a good fit,” Haik said, adding at one time Phillips planned to develop senior living condominiums on the land. “Now, we’re taking the senior living aspect out of it. This makes better sense.”
Thompson said he got philanthropist Bobby Allison involved in the project. Allison, who has made several naming-level donations to Missouri State University for recreational facility improvements over the years, has committed a yet-to-be-determined donation, Liedel said.
At the Greene County Planning and Zoning division, planner Thomas Hughes said the project’s land is zoned as a plot assignment district, which allows multiple land uses, such as a mixture of multifamily and commercial. As of June 17, he said the office hasn’t received a zoning variance application for the project.
Haik said the project team is working on the zoning request to allow soccer on the property. Liedel said discussions with city and county officials were delayed due to COVID-19. The development will likely seek tax incentives, he said.
“We haven’t gotten to the point with the city about what’s available or what types of incentives might be available for this project,” Liedel said.
Sarah Kerner, Springfield’s director of economic development, said any incentive requests would go through City Council for review.
“I would think it would be a pretty public process as it moves forward, if it develops that way,” she said. “They have a goal in mind, but this first phase is kind of just baby steps.”
Springfield’s soccer project comes along as the Kansas City area is in the midst of two youth soccer developments. The newest project, a $43 million, 12-field soccer complex in the Northland, was approved by the city April 30, according to media reports. Tax increment financing, capital improvement monies and parks sales taxes are among the $43 million in public funding for the project. Sporting Kansas City plans to operate the complex.
Much like Kansas City, all of the region’s top youth soccer clubs train and play on field turf or Bermuda grass, said Sporting Springfield’s Sorlie. Lake Country Soccer is the lone youth soccer facility, and it only has one turf field.
“From Springfield’s standpoint, it’s 100% about getting facilities to train our kids, and get the youth of the area involved on surfaces that are on par with big cities,” he said.
Lake Country hosts two or three large soccer tournaments annually, said Springfield Sports Commission Executive Director Lance Kettering. Those typically bring in 125-175 teams, with 1,100-1,200 room nights per tournament. Direct spending by participating families usually generate in the $600,000-$700,000 range, he said.
Phoenix, Arizona-based consulting company Huddle Up Group completed a sports tourism report for the Sports Commission last fall. In it, a new indoor sports facility was the No. 1 recommendation.
“This project will certainly help,” Kettering said, noting many large tournament companies seek out turf complexes when scheduling.
No specific soccer tournaments are being courted to come play at the new complex, according to Sporting Springfield officials. However, Thompson said the long-term vision of the project goes beyond soccer.
“We’re trying to make this a destination site, where we have retail, hotel and restaurants,” he said. “That’s the vision and the plan.”
Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.
A Hollister pub that debuted in 2017 expanded to Springfield; 417 Magazine operator Whitaker Publishing LLC changed ownership; and the Re/Max House of Brokers franchise business was purchased.
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