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“Mesa Plays” Revives Sports Complex Push

Credit: Mesa Plays

By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Halloween has passed, but one project thought dead for more than a year has returned from the grave. Unlike typical zombies, however, this one is getting a warm welcome among some sectors of the Mesa and East Valley community.

A steering and promotional committee called Mesa Plays, formed by city tourism group Visit Mesa, has recently begun efforts to revisit plans for a $60M, 24-field, multipurpose sports complex. The project would be built on city-owned land at Brown Road near the Loop 202. A 110KSF field house is also included in the plan.

On its website, the group cites an analysis by Elliot D. Pollack & Company in support of the project, stating, “This new development would generate significant benefits to the City of Mesa during every stage – from construction, daily operations and the anticipated future spending of visitors attending tournaments year-round. The complex will generate new economic activity like hotels and restaurants that will provide new tax revenue and jobs for all Mesa residents.”

The group says plans for the complex were developed through a survey of more than 400 local, regional and national event planners, and that existing space is woefully inadequate to fill demand. That demand includes a more than 50 percent growth in the number of soccer players registered among various area groups in just the past five years. An Arizona Republic article on the proposal says Mesa has between 800-1,000 hours more demand for lighted sports field use than it can accommodate.

Visit Mesa first announced the project in December, 2015. However, it was shelved in June of 2016 when Mesa City Council opted not to put it on that year’s November ballot. Several officials at the time, including Mayor John Giles, said it was a great idea but that the timing wasn’t right. The city was asking voters for a public safety sales tax and for approval of a downtown Mesa campus for ASU. Both measures were defeated.

At that time, Mesa officials and supporters said there was no immediate plan to reintroduce the project, but that it could potentially be considered as part of a larger parks plan in 2018 or 2019.

Now, however, the proposal has been dusted off, and supporters are citing both the demand for sports facilities and the complex’s potential as an economic development engine.

Among the benefits Mesa Plays is estimating are:

  • 400,000 new visitors a year for events, meetings and other activities;
  • $365M in total annual economic activity, including $183M in direct visitor expenditures;
  • 3,400 total, sustained jobs created;
  • More than 180,000 hotel nights booked each year, and
  • Service as an anchor point to launch new hotel, restaurant and other building development.

Group officials and supporters have been meeting with – and otherwise reaching out to – councilmembers in hopes of putting a bond request on the November 2018 ballot. If voters approve, the project will move into design, with the expectation of starting construction in summer or fall of 2019 and opening in late 2020 or early 2021.

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