By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
Members of the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority gave an update on the complex’s progress at the Gadsden-Etowah Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Biscuits and Gravy event on July 24.
Ralph Burke, the authority’s chair, talked about the research the committee has done.
“One of the things we’ve been doing over the past couple of years is traveling around the state, the southeast, looking at sports complexes, questioning a lot of people that have done this,” said Burke.
The authority has purchased land for the complex. The authority currently owns about 140 acres and has brought in Chambliss King Architects to be the design team.
“That property is free and clear,” said Burke. “There’s no debt on it. There’s no leins or anything. We bought that property outright with the revenue stream we have.”
“We have generated the revenue that we have without raising any taxes,” said State Representative and authority member Craig Ford. “That’s important. We have a revenue stream of $480,000. That’s a lot of money in taxes that we are accountable for. That’s not going to build a whole heck of a lot.”
Ford explained that with a generous bond, the complex could get five to six million dollars, but that just building a road from the complex to Hwy. 77 would cost one million dollars and clearing the land would cost roughly half a million dollars. With the remaining money, the authority plans to build 12 soccer fields.
“Why soccer first? Soccer’s your money maker,” said Ford.
Ford discussed economic impact studies that state that soccer fields could bring revenue into Rainbow City, Gadsden and Southside. Ford stated the importance of support from these local municipalities for the complex’s success. Twelve soccer fields would be required to host soccer tournaments, which would bring in more revenue.
“There’s teams in Birmingham that play soccer against Gadsden teams that went to their association and they have a validation excuse that they are not allowed and don’t have to come to Gadsden to play because our fields are not safe and adequate,” said Ford. “Now that’s embarrassing.”
Ford went on to talk about how locall teams have to travel to other areas, giving tax money to other areas and bringing no tax money to Etowah County.
“We need this for economic development,” said Ford.
Chamber President Heather New said that the Sports Complex is not competition with the Little Canoe Creek Industrial Park Megasite.
“Both are acheivable,” said New. “We should have both. Both would complement each other.”
Etowah County Commissioner and Gadsden mayorial candidate Carolyn Parker pledged $200,000 to the complex’s road projects.
The authority is planning to break ground on the new soccer fields next month.