By Sarrah Peters
On Monday, May 13, Rainbow City took steps to protect the investment it has made into the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex.
A bill introduced by State Senator Andrew Jones created uncertainty about the Sports Complex’s future. The bill is very similar to the one State Representative Becky Nordgren advertised a few weeks ago. The bill would dissolve the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority and give the tourism board control over the project. The bill passed in the Senate last week.
The bill blindsided the authority and local municipalities that had invested in the project. They aired their concerns during an meeting on April 9. The biggest concern was the project being halted, as venders were unsure whether the contracts they signed with the authority would be upheld after the authority was dissolved.
Since its start, the authority has purchased 139 acres of land for the complex. It has begun the process of establishing the first phase of construction that would build six to eight soccer fields, allowing for games and tournaments to be held in Etowah County. Due to the poor condition of existing local soccer fields, many local teams are forced to travel to compete, as competitors refuse to use the local fields.
Rainbow City leaders were upset because they had invested a great deal into the project. The City of Rainbow City had agreed to build a road as an entryway to the complex that would also serve to alleviate traffic concerns near Rainbow Middle School and John Jones Elementary School.
“Rainbow City has made a gigantic commitment to this project,” said authority Chairman Ralph Burke.
To protect its investment, Rainbow City annexed the land the authority a had purchased. The Rainbow City Council bought the property for $590,750, which will be paid with annual payments over four years with no interest. Payment is not due for almost a year. A condition of sale requires the city to lease the property back to the authority for $1 a year for 20 years, with an option to extend the lease for another 20 years.
“This is a win-win for the kids and tourism of Etowah County,” said authority member Craig Ford. “We are excited to partner with Rainbow City. This project has been in the works a long time. The safe, state-of-the- art facility is what our kids deserve, and the tourism dollars it generates will benefit all of Etowah County. I can’t wait to see the kids out playing on the soccer fields.”