Archive for Thursday, March 30, 2006

Soccer complex worth gamble on long odds

March 30, 2006

In the terminology of poker that is so current, De Soto is betting for value in responding to Major League Soccer and Hunt Sports Group's request for possible locations for a future home of the Kansas City Wizards. There is little at risk in participating in the request for a proposal and the payoff would be huge.

What the soccer officials have in mind is a complex with a 20,000-seat stadium, 17 championship quality soccer fields and 30 to 40 acres of retail ground. That mirrors Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, which just happens to be the home of another Lamar Hunt-owned team.

The opportunity that the city and its economic development partner are striving for is one fully realized in Frisco and closer to home in Wyandotte County. It is the concept of creating economic development around a sports facility.

No one knows how seriously De Soto's proposals will be considered.

The site, unidentified except for being west of the city and south of Kansas Highway 10, is far more rural than others known to have been proposed in Johnson County. But that could be its greatest asset.

It takes vision to see a stadium west of De Soto. Those with that vision could see much more. There is plenty of open land available to do something special that would attract destination retailers like those who have set up shop in Wyandotte County. That kind of retail base would make viable the STAR bonds floated as the most likely candidate for public financing.

It's worth noting in the less than a year since it opened, Pizza Hut Park has been the site of much more than the pro team's home games, MLS's championship game and all that youth activity on the neighboring fields. It has been the host to concerts, important football games and community events.

If successful, the gamble would get sewers extended to an area the city would very much like to serve while providing a stimulus for further commercial development. Both of those developments would come to the relief of long over-strapped property taxpayers and city sewer customers, who will soon have to start paying for the $9 million wastewater plant.

Like most gambles, the odds aren't with De Soto. But besides the huge potential payoff, the process itself makes the exercise worthwhile. The city has had to put real numbers behind the cost of providing infrastructure to its growth area. It has introduced the area to very real developers and has received publicity about the area's potential and availability.

It's small wonder Mayor Dave Anderson can access the city's chances with an "if not them, someone else" attitude.

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