By Murphy Woodhouse for Arizona Daily Star
When it comes to local youth soccer, football and other long-field sports, participating in major tournaments often means hitting the road to Phoenix and other cities across the West with larger facilities.
That also means that millions of dollars worth of spending — and the tax receipts it brings — happens beyond Pima County lines.
Those lost revenues are a major reason why Pima County officials are proposing 12 new athletic fields on 167 acres of county-owned land south of Interstate 10 and the Kino Sports Complex. Officials describe it as the first phase of what could be a more substantial project, renderings of which show 20 fields, a stadium, a splash pad and playground, concession stands and space for private facilities like stores, hotels and restaurants.
Including costs for 2,588 parking spots, lighting for the fields, two restroom facilities, an access road and other improvements, the estimated price tag for the Kino proposal is $18.6M, according to a recent memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. The county purchased the property for $8.75M in 2014.
A 2015 bond package included $25M to start on improvements estimated at $55M, but voters shot down the sports and recreation proposition by a 16-point margin.
The cost does not include estimates for an underpass that would take pedestrians, cyclists and drivers under I-10 to Forgeus Avenue and the rest of the Kino Sports Complex. Huckelberry said his guess was “a couple million dollars” for that project.
Tucson Soccer Academy and Pima County Junior Soccer League President Ted Schmidt said youth sports teams are contending with a serious shortage of playing fields locally. He also said he hopes county officials work with the soccer academy and others to ensure appropriate designs and to “avoid mistakes made in the past at our local parks, which have rendered many existing fields unsuitable for state and regional competition.”
There are 62 soccer fields in Pima County, though local team officials say there is enough demand for 80 more, according to a May memo written by Nanette Slusser, assistant county administrator for public works. Access to the proposed fields would be comparable to other county parks, where small fees are charged to leagues for practice. Huckelberry said that during the summer and other low periods, “pretty much free access” could be offered.
The Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, which has 18 full-length fields, annually generates over $100M in direct and induced spending, as well as several million dollars in sales-tax receipts, according to Slusser’s memo.
Schmidt said if the full facility is constructed, attracting major state and regional events and tournaments is “virtually guaranteed.”
Supervisor Ramón Valadez, whose district includes the project site, said, “What we’re looking at is potentially being the premier soccer tournament site in Arizona.”
His colleague Steve Christy, however, was more skeptical of the plan and its potential benefits.
Before a firm is selected for designing the first phase, the county supervisors will be asked to consider and provide direction on a plan sometime in the fall to pay for the proposal, according to Huckelberry’s memo. That would likely come in October and — if all goes according to plan — construction on the 12 new fields could start in mid-2018, Huckelberry said.
Christy said other county responsibilities, like roads, are more appropriate priorities.
Read more at Arizona Daily Star.
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