Editorials

July 24, 2014

Protect taxpayers on soccer village in Kansas City, Kan.

The project would boost the image and use of Sporting Park and bring more national attention to Kansas and Kansas City, Kan., in the fast-growing world of U.S. soccer. No one, though, got into the details about the public-private sector split on paying for the project, although it’s likely taxpayers will be asked to put in millions of dollars.

With plenty of enthusiasm but few details about financing, soccer boosters have unveiled an ambitious proposal to build a national training center in Kansas City, Kan.

Among those most excited about the news Wednesday were Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Unified Government Mayor Mark Holland. Each had good reasons to heap praise on the $75 million or so plan.

The soccer village could include 16 fields plus the National Training and Coaching Development Center that could be home to the U.S. Soccer Federation and be used for training by its men’s, women’s and youth national teams.

The project would boost the image and use of Sporting Park and bring more national attention to Kansas and Kansas City, Kan., in the fast-growing world of U.S. soccer.

No one, though, got into the details about the public-private sector split on paying for the project, although it’s likely taxpayers will be asked to put in millions of dollars.

On Thursday, County Administrator Doug Bach said lots of details had to be worked out before the project moves forward. He said public hearings would be held to vet the idea, while negotiations continue with Sporting and Schlitterbahn Waterpark officials, among others.

Essentially, some of the project’s funding would come from sales tax revenue raised within an existing economic development district where Schlitterbahn is the main attraction. Sporting Club is a potential contributor, too.

Bach stressed that costs of the soccer project — or other amenities such as Schlitterbahn improvements or a proposed hotel — would not be tied to taxpayer-supported bonds that built the nearby Village West development. That’s good to hear because those bonds are set to be paid off in 2017. After that, tax dollars will be freed up to pay for crucial basic city services.

Ultimately, Bach said public financing would not exceed 50 percent for all of the upgrades in the Schlitterbahn economic development area.

Holland and Unified Government commissioners should protect taxpayers while pushing for a strong dose of private funding for the soccer village. The public already has done plenty to promote development in Wyandotte County.

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