Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wizards moving closer to a stadium deal

Word out of Kansas City is good for the Wizards. A group of Johnson County, Kansas, civic leaders have this to say about a proposed major-league soccer complex in the county: Go for it. Now.

The 13 leaders say they have been studying the idea since November and feel that the project "...must include a professional stadium, youth fields and retail venues if it is to become a Midwestern destination spot. The cost of such a complex is pegged at $89 million to $125 million."

Since the Wizards only have till October to find a new home, the leaders are also pushing for a public vote as soon as possible.

This hope for speed runs into a bit of a problem since there is no scheduled election day till August 2. The supporters say they could have a ballot question ready by February 1, but since that is not a scheduled election day, it would cost the county $400,000 to hold such a vote. Also, the race to the ballot box might keep citizens from becoming fully informed about this issue.

Here are the main points from the committee:

But the committee concludes:

- There is “tremendous” demand for high-quality youth soccer fields in Johnson County. A complex with as many as 30 fields with a combination of natural grass and artificial turf would be used for regular league play and regional and national tournaments.

- A stadium with 18,000 to 22,000 seats is “critical” if the project is to attract commercial development and national recognition.

- While a stadium could be home to the Wizards, it also could serve high school and intercollegiate competition and be host to emerging sports such as rugby, lacrosse and field hockey and entertainment events.

- Development would require a public-private partnership. Any “significant” public financing would be submitted to voters.

It is really a nice looking plan, but I hope they don't try to force this through. If they give people time to look the plan over and really make a pitch for soccer, they might have a little harder time at the ballot box, but I think it will help the team down the road. If the community feels part of the process, they will be a lot more interested in supporting the club.

You can view the full report here (link is a 221 page PDF document).

The report does talk about possible funding sources without pointing to a direct plan. Talk of bonds, sales tax increases and tax increment financing are all mentioned. There is also the idea of soccer registration fees and ticket surcharges. In my brief, very uneducated read of the document, they seem to hint at a nice amount (50-70%) of public funding. I am always hesitant to see public money go into private projects, so I will wait to see the final plan before striking up the band on this one.

Still, it is really good to see true action taking place to try and keep the team in the KC area.

By the way, their report still lists San Jose as home to a MLS team and Houston as a possible site for future MLS expansion. Also, if this plan does happen, the Wizards will move across state lines to Kansas.



Anonymous john said...

Mike, in case you missed it, announcement by USSF: no public sale, there will be a wait list, and we will know by Jan 14 so we can still have time to enter the FIFA lottery.

10:13 PM  

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