Developers ask for more flexibility in U.S. Soccer national training facility plans

Project developers asked the Unified Government Commission for some flexibility in the U.S. Soccer training center project planned on vacant land near Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.

Mentioned tonight by developers was the possibility of adding Olympic training to the mix of uses.

The $62 million development includes a 100,000-square-foot U.S. Soccer national training center at a $26 million cost, futsal courts, and tournament fields at a $17.5 million cost, and $10 million for land acquisition, according to UG documents. An extended-stay hotel and restaurant sites were part of the proposal. The concept of the expanded STAR bond Vacation Village district was approved last month.

At the Unified Government Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting Monday night, officials with the project said they would like to have the flexibility to trade the location of some of the project, for example, potentially the youth field areas with some of the items in the training center area.

The two areas that are being considered for trading are one 35-acre site that is located on Parallel Parkway on the north side of the property, and another area of 125 acres located on the south and east of 94th and State Avenue on the former Speer farm property.

Chase Simmons with the Polsinelli law firm, representing the developer, said some of the details of the agreement are still in negotiation. He said that originally the U.S. Soccer building and its fields would go to the north side on Schlitterbahn property, and the youth fields to the east on the Speer property.

“There have now been a lot of ideas thrown about,” Simmons said. This included everything from putting the entire development on the Speer property, to mixing and matching the various parts of the development on the two pieces of land.

Robb Heineman, CEO of OnGoal, the parent of Sporting Kansas City, said the goal was to build the preeminent sports training complex in the nation anchored by U.S. Soccer. He also said the Schlitterbahn owners have been very helpful with the project.

“As we continue to look at site design,” Heineman said, “and in talking to other groups in addition to not only U.S. Soccer, but other Olympic-type opportunities, we just want to have flexibility with how we develop the site.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for us to get a lot of the Olympic training assets that are located today in Chula Vista, Calif., which is looking for a new home, to relocate to the site,” Heineman said. “That’s something that I would like to have the opportunity to provide to them, if we had the appropriate kind of indoor facilities, which will be contained already in the original building that we are building, and also had some additional land to potentially build them fields or other space that may be attractive to them.”

What they will all bring, he said, is economic development, whether it is room nights or conferences.

“As U.S. Soccer has gotten more invested in this whole site design, they have begun to bring us bigger investment opportunity ideas for their long-term growth plans,” Heineman said. “I want to make sure I’ve got land to accommodate that.”

All of the project would have to come back to the planning and zoning meetings for approval, and according to the developers, they wanted to hear now if there were any commission objections to flexibility in the project plans.

Simmons said he believed there was enough land in this project for the proposed uses, although there were some environmental issues and some deed restrictions.

If the U.S. Soccer building does not end up on the Schlitterbahn property on Parallel, then Schlitterbahn does not have to fulfill the obligation to build the extended-stay hotel or restaurants, project officials said. The hotel location is conditional upon the training facility being there.
UG Administrator Doug Bach said in that case, the negotiators would have to continue to work on fulfilling it at the other site, or have some further discussion with Schlitterbahn so it could be built in another way.

Bach said the proposal involving U.S. Soccer was built on the assumption that there would not be any property taxes on the soccer training facility. The hotel portion, if moved to the other site, would pay property taxes.

Only incremental, new revenues from sales taxes at Village West would go toward this project, according to the proposed development agreement. For example, the proposed agreement stated, if existing sales tax revenues at Village West in the last year of the existing STAR bonds were $40 million, and in the following year sales taxes generated at Village West were $42 million, only the new $2 million of sales taxes could be used to pay the national training center bonds, while the other $40 million in sales taxes would go to the UG, the state and other taxing jurisdictions.

While the tax portion from the training center project would be fairly small, the economic impact to the surrounding area is expected to be large in increasing sales taxes and contributing to the success of the surrounding area, according to Simmons.

Bach said initial projections are that there is a potential that the income generated by this project will be more than its overall costs, through the years.

Commissioner Gayle Townsend said her only concern about flexibility is that the UG not lose some other opportunity, or that the cost increases for the project. She also referred to the potential loss of the hotel if the site is moved.

UG commissioners attending the meeting Monday did not voice any strong objections to the flexibility request, and UG officials said they and other commissioners could contact UG administrators if they have any questions or concerns during the next several days. The commissioners participating in the committee discussion tonight were not from the western Wyandotte County districts.

The proposed development agreement currently calls for the placement of eight futsal courts throughout Wyandotte County, including: four futsal courts built over existing tennis courts at Bethany Park, Highland Park, Welborn Park and Westheight Park, with the developer paying for construction; four new futsal courts, ground-up construction at Edwardsville Park, Harmon High School, Garland Park and Vega Field, with the UG providing the asphalt base and the developer paying for the rest; four new futsal courts built in connection with the National Training and Coaching Center on Schlitterbahn property, with the developer responsible for the costs. The developer will continue maintaining the two existing futsal courts at Wyandotte High School.

The proposed agreement also calls for the developer to build 12 tournament fields, but they will not be at Wyandotte County Park as originally planned. They are expected to be on parts of this Vacation Village STAR district. Eight of the 12 fields would be for daily use and tournaments, and four of the 12 fields would be dual use for tournaments and U.S. Soccer training .

Original plans were for eight fields to be on the Speer property, while four would be next to the U.S. Soccer training facility. The moving of these fields is part of the current discussion.

The development agreement is expected to come before the full UG Commission at a date in October, according to UG officials. The proposed agreement states that OnGoal has a target date of May 1, 2016, for completion of the U.S. Soccer training complex.

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