Planned for Hwy. 152 at Platte Purchase
slightly trimmed proposed soccer complex in the Northland will be built by the City of Kansas City.
The Kansas City council on a split vote last week approved the proposal, which will go in at Platte Purchase Drive and Hwy. 152 just inside the Platte County line.
The complex will be operated by Sporting KC, a professional soccer club in Kansas City.
The city council voted 8-4 in favor of a contract with Sporting to bring a 10-field $35 million competitive soccer complex. Proponents are saying the complex would drive development in the area and keep soccer enthusiasts and their families from having to make the trip to Johnson County or Swope Park to play competitive soccer.
It had originally been proposed as 12 fields with a cost of about $43 million.
Opponents of the project have said that the project is inappropriate amid an economic crisis, and say the deal heavily favors Sporting KC. They also questioned the need for City Hall to invest in tournament-quality fields in the Northland when parks in the urban core desperately need maintenance.
“This remains a vital project,” said Councilman Dan Fowler, who represents the Northland, was quoted by the Kansas City Star. “It remains an economic stimulus, a catalyst.”
“The estimated annual direct tourism impact for Kansas City is $14 million,” Alicia Stephens, special project coordinator with the Platte County EDC, told The Landmark in May.
“But beyond dollars is the improvement in quality of life. We heard from many sports parents that they were tired of the drive to Kansas to watch their kids play soccer. The complex and surrounding park and trails will be a great amenity in Kansas City, Platte County and the Northland,” Stephens said.
In the fall of 2019, the Platte County Commission unanimously pledged to enter into a financing agreement with Kansas City, the Tax Increment Financing Commission of Kansas City and the Industrial Development Authority of Platte County to make $17 million in public infrastructure improvements in the Twin Creek area.
Shortly thereafter, the City of Kansas City issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a team to design, build, operate and maintain the complex, said Stephens.
MD Management is the owner of the site, Stephens said, “and they have been tremendously patient waiting for (this) vote.”
PCEDC WORKING WITH
KC AND PROPERTY OWNER
Matt Tapp, executive director of the Platte County Economic Development Council, last May told The Landmark that PCEDC continues to work very diligently with MD Management, who is not only the property owner but also the master developer for the overall area.
Tapp said the Northland Sports Complex will sit directly adjacent and have convenient connections to a new master-planned “Village Center” that he said “will include retail, restaurants, shopping, in conjunction with core supporting uses such as luxury apartments and professional office space.”
Tapp explained that the intent here is to establish a true destination spot, a “City within a City” that can directly feed off the new anchor tenant being the Northland Sports Complex.
“Make no mistake, the Northland Sports Complex was and will continue to be the spark or catalyst that ignites tremendous investment and exciting new activities to our region,” Tapp said.
The Kansas City decision
Previously, the proposal involved the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, where it encountered some concerns among members of the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners. Terry Rynard, the department director, told the Kansas City Star she was pushing toward a better deal for the city, including renegotiating the city’s contract with the soccer club to run Swope and for less financial risk to the city budget.
Rynard said she thought there was a belief she wasn’t giving enough credit to the potential economic benefit of the project. The department, she said, didn’t walk away from the project.
But Sporting said the department wouldn’t commit to the deal, according to the Star.
The Star also reported that Chris Goode, a member of the parks board, has been a vocal opponent of the project, noting the severe economic distress the city has faced since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He and other opponents also questioned the idea of building new fields to attract tournament teams to the Northland while other city parks aren’t well maintained.
He pointed out to the Star the city struggles with repairing crumbling infrastructure, preventing and solving homicides and serving its homeless population.
“It’s probably going to be a beautiful thing for the Northland and maybe even for Kansas City in general, but it’s not the right time to spend that kind of money because we have so many pressing causes for taxpayer funds.”
In November, the Sporting team cut off negotiations, and a week later, a new ordinance came forward without involvement from the Kansas City Parks Department.
Mayor Quinton Lucas sent the legislation to the transportation committee instead of to the council’s Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee where the previous legislation was introduced.
Lucas told The Star he did so because it’s an infrastructure project, not as an effort to bypass that committee.
Council members Brandon Ellington, Katheryn Shields, Eric Bunch and Ryana Parks-Shaw voted against the project. Councilman Lee Barnes was absent. Mayor Quinton Lucas and the rest of the members voted for it.