Archive for Thursday, March 30, 2006

City asked to refine soccer plan

March 30, 2006

Having met with representatives of Major League Soccer and Hunts Sports Group, De Soto officials are refining the city's proposal to be the future home of the Kansas City Wizards.

De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson said he, city staff and local economic development leaders met March 17 with MLS officials. The city representatives pitched their proposals and took the visitors on a tour of the proposed site for a 20,000-seat soccer stadium for the Lamar Hunt-owned team and 17 championship-quality fields.

De Soto is one of four Johnson County cities known to have responded to a request to identify proposed sites of at least 220 acres for the stadium, fields and 30 to 50 acres of commercial development

Anderson said the soccer representatives seemed impressed with the site. The exact location of the site remains secret but it is conceded to be west of De Soto and south of Kansas Highway 10.

The city was asked to refine its proposal with the addition of more details. Beyond that, Anderson and city officials haven't much to say.

Johnson County Commissioner David Lindstrom said five Johnson County cities submitted about 16 potential sites. He expected that list to be narrowed to two or three in the next 30 to 60 days.

"One of the reasons this is taking longer than anticipated is so many sites were submitted," Lindstrom said. "I have been personally very pleased by cities that have been in the mix.

"I know from talking with the MLS, they thought De Soto's request was as comprehensive as any they received."

Anderson has said he saw STAR bonds as the principal economic development tool the city had available to help with the project. STAR bonds allow a developer of a qualifying project to divert sales tax revenue collected from retail activity in a project to paying off development costs.

Role for parks and rec

Lindstrom said it was too early to suggest any public financing options he might support. But he said STAR bonds, revenue bonds and TIFs were options in the state tool box for the right project.

One likely partner in a soccer complex would be the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District.

"I think in regard to the amateur fields, there is an understanding there would not only be participation but leadership on the part of Johnson County Parks and Rec," Lindstrom said. "They have the expertise, and I think the willingness."

It was just such a public-private partnership that built Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Lindstrom led a Johnson County delegation on the visit to the home of the Hunt-owned FC Dallas last month.

Frisco deputy city manager Henry Hill said the $80 million Pizza Hut Park was built with $20 million in public financing from the city, an equal amount from Collin County and $15 million from the local school district. The team provided the remaining $25 million.

Frisco didn't enter any competition to land the soccer complex, Hill said.

"It was not a response to a specific request of proposal," he said. "It was more like, 'Here's an opportunity.'

"There was discussion of finding a home for what was to be the Dallas professional soccer club. Different cities had taken a hand in packaging proposals. I think Frisco was able to come up with a winning combination when the city, county and school district put something together."

The city already had experience in attracting sports-driven development, Hill said. The soccer complex was part of a larger district that provides tax increment financing to projects complimenting a goal, he said. The economic development tool diverts property tax that would be owed for an improvement to a property to paying off the cost of the upgrade.

"It was part of an overall strategy by the city to create family friendly venues," Hill said of the soccer complex. "We opened a ballpark for a Texas Rangers minor league affiliate in 2003. Right near by, is the corporate headquarters and practice facility of the Dallas North Stars and the home of its minor league franchise, the Texas Tornadoes."

TIFs key for Frisco

Texas doesn't have STAR bonds, Hill said. But the state does allow the transfer of sales taxes to municipal economic development corporations, which can use the money to finance projects, he said. Two such entities, the Frisco Economic Development Corporation and the Frisco Community Development Corporation, contributed to the project.

"It's a different mechanism than STAR bonds, but the same result," Hill said.

In addition, the local school district, which was considering a bond issue for an $18 million multi-use stadium, eventually contributed $15 million to the complex to gain access to the stadium with no ongoing maintenance costs, Hill said.

Entertainment at the soccer complex isn't limited to the 16 home games or post-season action FC Dallas plays each year, Hill said. The stadium was home to the 2005 MLS championship game and will be again in 2006, he said. It has also been the site of the Dallas Cup soccer competition and major foreign exhibitions, he said.

The stadium was built with a permanent stage that made it a regular concert venue and is enhanced with a jumbo-tron screen, Hill said.

Moreover, the city has scheduled its 2006 Fourth of July celebration for the stadium, and it was the site of the homecoming game between the city's two high school football games, Hill said.

The sports venues in Frisco spurred construction of a 330-room hotel with convention center and large destination retailers not unlike those near the Wyandotte County NASCAR site, Hill said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.