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KC Council committee endorses soccer complex at Swope Park

Updated: 2013-03-07T06:20:32Z

By KEVIN COLLISON

The Kansas City Star

A deal struck between Jackson County and the city to fund a tournament-style, 10-field soccer complex at Swope Park had everyone pleased Wednesday at City Hall — except a neighborhood group that feels shortchanged.

The plan to expand a relatively modest, three-field soccer facility near 63rd Street and Hardesty Avenue into a destination amateur complex as good as any in the region got unanimous support from the Kansas City Council Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee. The Soccer Village is being funded by the city and county after a previous proposal fell through.

“What started out as an acrimonious project has become something we can all get behind,” Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders told the committee. “There’s a huge need for sporting fields that needs to be filled.”

The original Soccer Village proposal called for using a $11.1 million surplus remaining in a tax-increment financing plan established to help build the nearby Winchester business park. But the Raytown school district, Mid-Continent library and the county objected to that money being used for an unrelated project.

The school district threatened to file a lawsuit, and last month the city agreed to scrap the TIF-based financing plan. The school district is now receiving $4.1 million from the Winchester TIF surplus.

The city and county, however, agreed to dedicate their combined $6.4 million share of the TIF surplus for the Soccer Village project. The governments also will dedicate future incremental tax revenues from the Winchester development over the next 10 years to the soccer endeavor.

The revised plan would add seven fields with lighting; enlarge the professional athletic facility used by Sporting Kansas City; and build new amenities such as restrooms, bleacher seating and parking. The full City Council is expected to consider the Soccer Village plan March 21. The County Legislature approved the agreement two weeks ago.

Barring setbacks, construction should begin this year.

But although Raytown school officials and Sanders came to the council committee to applaud the soccer financing agreement, a contingent from the Swope Ridge Neighborhood Association was on hand to protest the plan.

They believe the agreement falls far short of what the neighborhood was promised in the original Winchester TIF plan. The neighborhood is scheduled to receive $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements including upgraded septic tanks, and $900,000 is dedicated to improvements to Bennett Road.

“We are very dismayed with the action being taken,” said Patt Losiewicz, president of the Swope Ridge group.

“We have a problem with a diversion of funding that was intended to bring the neighborhood infrastructure up to date. It’s grossly unfair to the neighborhood to do without sewer lines and improvements.”

City officials however, said the original 1991 Winchester TIF, while promising significant infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood, only allocated $195,000 for that purpose. They said the $1.5 million was in line with what other neighborhoods have received for public improvements through the TIF program.

Councilwoman Cindy Circo, who has championed the Soccer Village proposal, described the $1.5 million as a “huge leap forward” over what the neighborhood would ordinarily have received.

“The 1991 document had very general wording regarding projects and a small amount of dollars,” she said. “It’s one of those things where we can’t make everyone happy.”

To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send email to kcollison@kcstar.com.

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