Joco 913

Soccer park expected to be boon for Olathe, fans and players

Jim Randall loves watching his granddaughter play soccer.

The commutes to the games, however, are another story. From his Olathe home, the shortest soccer-related drive the longtime city councilman and current Mayor Pro Tem makes is to the Scheels Overland Park Soccer Complex near 135th and Switzer Road. Many are considerably further.

So at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Randall had a pressing question for Pete Heaven, the attorney for developers looking to build a soccer complex right in Olathe.

“Pete, how much money are you going to save me on gas?”

Satisfied with the answer, Randall joined four other council members (Mayor Michael Copeland and Councilman Ron Ryckman were not at the meeting) in unanimously approving the privately owned Olathe Soccer Complex, which will sit at the southwest corner of Kansas 10 and Ridgeview Road.

The 96-acre project, developed by Ridgeview Associates LLC and West Star Development, will cost an estimated $65 million and include nine all-weather artificial turf fields.

Unlike the 12-field Overland Park complex, the Olathe Soccer Complex, set to open on Jan. 1, 2019, will eventually include 27,000 square feet of retail and two hotels.

The facility is also unlike the Overland Park complex in another important way, Heaven told council members. It will be privately owned.

“It can truly be called a private/public partnership that works,” Heaven said.

Because of the retail and hotels, the development will be paid for without Olathe tax dollars. It’s expected to generate $13 million for the city in its first year of operation.

If developers meet certain criteria, the project can, however, qualify for up to $8 million in tax increment financing (TIF) and $4.5 million in community improvement district (CID) financing. Under the plan, the developers would not have to pay property taxes on the complex for 10 years.

Among the criteria: the complex must open by Jan. 1, 2019; the retail stores and hotels must open within three years of that date; and the project must generate at least 18,000 room nights in Olathe hotels annually.

Two years ago, Olathe began exploring bringing such a facility to the city, commissioning a study on sports tourism with the Olathe Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Tim Danneberg, the city’s director of communication and customer services.

Like most cities, Olathe assumed it would have to foot the bill. Then Ridgeview and West Star made their pitch.

“It surfaced independently of the city’s efforts,” Danneberg said. “But it was consistent with the strategic direction they took.”

Not only will Olathe not have to pay for it, Danneberg said — they won’t have to run it. Heartland Soccer has signed a 25-year lease to operate the complex.

“It’s something that’s out of our wheelhouse, and it’s a good opportunity for someone with a proven track record.”

The complex is expected to draw 250,000 soccer players and 1.35 million total visitors annually, Heaven said. At least 10 tournaments are expected to be played at the facility every year. For parts of June and July, Olathe Parks and Recreation will have use of the fields at no cost.

Johnson County isn’t the only part of the metro riding the soccer wave. The 12-field Wyandotte County Youth Soccer Complex is set to open this summer, and a group of developers that includes former Chief Deron Cherry has plans to build a 15-field soccer complex in Grandview.