A new soccer complex, part of a $230 million mixed-use project in Lee’s Summit, could be financially feasible, according to reports from consultants hired to analyze the proposal.
BY RUSS PULLEY
Special to the Star
About a year ago, Lee’s Summit businessman Flip Short signed a pre-development agreement with the city for the project at the northeast corner of View High Drive and Interstate 470.
The plan so far includes 15 soccer fields with a clubhouse, 300 upscale apartments and an entertainment district, with mostly restaurants and bars on lower levels, and office space on second floor.
It could include a bowling center or movie theater. A 30,000-square-foot grocery is planned, as well as a 200-room hotel. The developers are investigating including a clinic for sports medicine and physical therapy, in cooperation with St. Luke’s Hospital.
The soccer complex includes a championship field with seating for 3,500 to 5,000 spectators; a clubhouse that has outdoor viewing on the second floor, and 14 other playing fields.
Synthetic turf would keep fields available in wet weather.
The development team is working on private equity partners for the project, which has a working name of View High Green. Team member Bill Brown said the city would need to participate in financing, but what that package would look like is still being determined.
“You can’t make it work without city participation.”
Short said the plan includes revenue sharing with the city after the complex is in operation, above sales and property taxes and beyond repaying any tax-increment financing.
“We want them to participate in revenue sharing forever,” he said.
Though some City Council members wanted to know more about the city’s potential outlay, Short got positive feedback at a recent meeting.
Council member Allan Gray commended the team for four years of work in acquiring land and planning for the evolving project.
Gray said he thought the project would be positioned well for success, noting its closeness to the massive Cerner development on the former Bannister Mall site. He said it could “unlock” economic development at View High Drive.
“You want to skate to where the puck is going to be,” Gray said. “This is the kind of project that strikes the imagination ... and as a resident, it is really exciting.”
Councilmember Derek Holland praised Short for risking not only his money, but his reputation on such a bold undertaking.
“I’d like to commend you for your vision,” Holland said.
Short’s company, Happy Valley Properties LLC, has several partners in the project.
RED Legacy is working on retail, NorthPoint Development is working on the apartments and BNIM is doing design work. Also part of the project is Global Sports Inc., which schedules soccer tournaments and sports tours and also is a travel agency.
“I am blown away by the amount of progress we’ve made and the ability to attract well-known names in the Kansas City area, if not in the United States,” Short said.
Brown said the project developers had borrowed ideas from the Overland Park Soccer Complex and improved on them.
“Soccer would be a major driver here, along with lacrosse, and rugby as well,” Brown said.
Brown said the Lee’s Summit project would be the only one in the nation where the players, coaches and family could walk to restaurants or entertainment when not playing in tournaments, and not have to drive to another location.
The complex would be host for league play and tournaments about 21 weekends each year, he said.
While there would be some competition with Overland Park’s signature soccer complex, which is acknowledged as one of the best in the United States, there also would be opportunity to jointly run national tournaments, Brown said.
“It would be a draw from both coasts,” Brown said. “We’re looking at a lot of tourism dollars.”
During the week, the hotel would serve business travelers and larger events that now don’t have suitable locations in Lee’s Summit.
“Overall, the market surrounding the proposed sports complex is capable of supporting its development and operation ... much of the demand for weekday training and league play would come from Lee’s Summit,” stated a market study by HVS, a Chicago firm that provides consulting for convention, sports and entertainment facilities
Its consultants had visited the site, the Overland Park Soccer Complex and 10 other comparable complexes, reviewed Short’s plan and forecast financial operations of the proposed complex.
A second firm, Real Estate Research Consultants of Orlando, Fla., analyzed the hotel and office space elements.
That company said that big box stores at Pryor Road would make more of that kind of development difficult, but there is opportunity for smaller retail and restaurants and the grocery.
Currently many Lee’s Summit and eastern Jackson County youth join teams playing in Overland Park, said Brown and Will Coates, who is president of Billy Goat Industries Inc., which sponsors an elite youth soccer club.
Coates said the team, Billy Goat FC, has about 30 players, most from Lee’s Summit, who have to go to Overland Park to practice between 9:30 and 11 p.m.
He said high-level teams will travel to several tournaments in the spring, and several more in the fall. They spend lots of money on travel and lodging.
“It would be great if we could play three of those tournaments here,” Coates said.
The proposed soccer complex would sit in a valley alongside the Little Blue River, part of 80 acres owned by Lee’s Summit, surrounded by wooded bluffs.
Brown said the apartments and businesses would be expected to be attractive to young professionals, like some of the 1,200 employees for the Cerner complex being built about five miles away on the former Bannister Mall site.
Aggregate for construction would be provided by the Family Ranch project farther east, where Short intends to mine rock.