by Valerie Verkamp
As the popularity of soccer reaches an all-time high, local officials are putting more than just a finger in the wind to determine the feasibility of constructing a soccer complex within Platte Purchase Park.
The Platte County Economic Development Council hired Canyon Research Southwest, Inc. to assess the market demand for youth soccer fields and its economic impact on Platte County.
According to the market feasibility study, there is an existing need for 11 soccer fields in the Northland.
Based upon this assessment, Canyon Research drew up a preliminary plan for a $41 million tournament quality soccer complex at Platte Purchase Park located just north of 152 Highway off Platte Purchase Drive in Platte County.
The facility would encompass 12 full-size synthetic turf soccer fields, including a championship field with seating. The proposed Platte Purchase Soccer Complex would offer three concessions and restroom facilities, a 12,000 to 15,000 square foot field house and an on-site parking lot.
“The complex will both improve soccer opportunities and participation in the Northland, as well as create a recreation venue capable of generating net economic benefits in terms of out-of-town visitation, expenditures, and lodging demand,” it is stated in the market feasibility study.
The soccer complex would be located inside Platte Purchase Park at the northwest corner of 100th Street and Platte Purchase Drive.
The 140-acre park currently has 14 baseball fields, one soccer field, two state-of-the-art playgrounds with shelters and one-mile walking trail.
If the proposed project receives the green light, 12 of the 14 baseball fields will be replaced with 12 full-size synthetic turf soccer fields.
To retain some of the existing baseball fields, another option would involve purchasing an 80-acre parcel just west of Platte Purchase Park.
There are, of course, many existing soccer complexes that host youth practice time, competitive leagues and tournaments in the Kansas City area. In fact, various park and recreational departments in the Kansas City metropolitan area manage 239 soccer fields.
But none of the existing Northland soccer fields are of tournament quality, states the study.
The nearest tournament quality soccer fields are the Independence Athletic Complex and Swope Soccer Village—both are more than 22 miles from the proposed Platte Purchase Soccer Complex.
In the Northland, burgeoning interest in soccer has fueled 269 soccer teams and competitive clubs. Teams are forced to maneuver their schedules around the existing 22 soccer fields in the area, according to the study.
Using numbers from the 2010 census, the most recent available, 34.7 percent of all households in the market area have children living at home. This indicates there would be a possible demand for a youth athletic facility.
Construction of the proposed soccer complex would unfold in various phases. The first phase calls for the construction of eight full-size soccer fields with lights. The soccer fields will be turf to “greatly reduce the disruption in play resulting from inclement weather or wear and tear on the fields.”
Four additional fields would be constructed as the demand grows.
“Phase development will reduce the initial capital expenditures and ongoing operating costs, as well as provide for flexibility to expand and grow in response to future market needs,” according to the study.
Upon review of economic data, an athletic facilities analysis, and an economic impact assessment, Canyon Research says the construction of the soccer complex would generate a total economic output of $49.4 million and produce 349 full-time jobs and $16.2 million in payroll.
Upon its completion, the annual net economic benefit generated by regional tournaments held at the proposed Platte Purchase Soccer Complex is estimated at approximately $14.1 million. Indirect expenditures would generate another $5.6 million and hotels could see an influx of 59,300 room nights, states the study.
“The proposed Platte Purchase Soccer Complex will contribute significantly to the local economy by generating one-time construction spending and jobs, as well as reoccurring expenditures and lodging demand by out-of-town visitors,” the study added.
BASEBALL VS. SOCCER
Population growth over the past two decades coupled with the popularity of youth soccer--sparked in part by the success of local professional soccer team Sporting Kansas City—are leading factors influencing the growing demand for soccer facilities in Kansas City, especially among high school students.
According to Statista, boys high school soccer participation during 2009 to 2016 increased by 12.4 percent.
“Despite supporting 16 percent of the Major League Soccer (MLS) population, the Northland maintains just 9.2 percent of the soccer field inventory. This imbalance in the number of soccer fields and the unmet demand is evidence that the Northland can support the near-term construction of additional soccer fields,” according to the study.
While the interest in youth soccer has increased, participation in baseball and slow pitch softball has slightly declined.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association Sports Participation, baseball participation among Americans seven years of age and older fell 8.1 percent from 2000 to 2010. Slow pitch softball fell 37.9% over the same period.
Despite the decline, baseball participation rates in the United States remain slightly higher than soccer participation rates. In light of these statistics, opponents to the proposal say there is no guarantee the new soccer development will flourish any better than the existing baseball facility.
It appears the demand for youth baseball fields either never took off as household composition characteristics suggested or there happens to be an abundance of baseball fields. A recent inventory of baseball facilities in Platte County reveals there are approximately 50 baseball and softball fields.
For others, the issue of tearing down the baseball facility to construct a soccer complex is financing. Taxpayers paid $1.5 million to construct the first phase of development at Platte Purchase Park. They argue scrapping the baseball development, which is merely 15 years old, would be quite wasteful.
Alicia Stephens, director of the Platte County Economic Development Council, said the soccer complex proposal is conceptual at this time. Neither the location nor funding of the proposed soccer complex have been confirmed.
At this stage, officials will continue to identify possible site locations and funding to help pay for the $41 million proposed project.