Pickerington Times-Sun

Homestead eyes land buy for soccer complex

By MICHAEL HAYES
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Homestead Development Co.'s desire to build a 115,000-square-foot indoor soccer complex in Pickerington is back in play now that Pickerington City Council's finance committee has given preliminary approval to a plan for the company to purchase a 16-acre plot from the city.

The committee's vote was 6-0 at its Sept. 18 meeting. The transaction between the city and Homestead paves the way for the development of a $4-million indoor soccer facility adjacent to Gray Drive near Pickerington's new water plant.

"We want to move it forward out of finance (committee) so we have it in front of council at its next meeting Oct. 2," committee Chairperson Gavin Blair said.

Blair said the proposal calls for Homestead to purchase the city land for $263,029, which represents the total price of "buildable acreage" for the site. Homestead will use 4.9 acres to build the complex, at a cost of $50,000 an acre. He said another four-acre section "has a huge gas line running through it."

Blair said the agreement calls for Homestead to receive an eight-year property tax abatement, a reduction from Homestead's original preference for a 15-year abatement. He said Homestead also would be responsible for all other fees associated with the development of the site, including impact, stormwater and engineering fees.

"We did a tax abatement to get a cash flow, to let them get some money back into their pockets. We would have gone up to 15 years, but we went to eight and cut down the price," he said.

Blair said the terms of the new agreement are an adjustment from a proposal Homestead presented the city last month.

"They brought a contract forward at the last finance committee meeting, but we really didn't like it. They were going to pay for the land over 30 years and have the other fees waived," he said.

He said under the revised agreement, "We sold it to them outright."

Blair said the soccer complex will benefit Pickerington both financially and recreationally.

"We view this opportunity as a public/private partnership," he said. "It's going to give an instant cash flow into the (city) coffers that we can do public good with. It's going to be a great asset to the community. We are one of the most popular locations for soccer in central Ohio."

Homestead received city approval in July 2011 to develop a similar soccer complex on 70 acres just west of Hill Road Plaza, which is anchored by Big Lots. However, that parcel was sold to OhioHealth, which announced in January this year it would develop a health care campus on the site along Refugee Road.

"The developers became interested in this location after they sold their previous property, on which this proposed development had been approved for, to OhioHealth," Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance said. "The city remains grateful to the soccer developers for assisting us in getting OhioHealth to Pickerington."

Vance said he anticipates the facility will create a spillover effect on the local economy.

"This indoor soccer complex will bring many new guests and visitors to Pickerington to enjoy this facility, and while here, they will, hopefully, also be investing in Pickerington's many other commercial opportunities that will also be available to them," he said.

Attorney Aaron Underhill, representing Homestead, said the proposed facility, projected to have four regulation-size soccer fields, "does not differ in any material respect from what was to be developed on the previous site."

He said it will be a great amenity for the Pickerington community in that "it will eliminate the need for families to travel to the Easton soccer facility or other areas if they want their kids to play soccer year-round."

Underhill said the remaining acreage on the site will be used for parking, landscaping and stormwater retention. He projected the facility would open sometime in the fall of 2013.

He credited Pickerington officials with providing the flexibility necessary to move the project forward.

"Many suburban communities in central Ohio are trying very hard to either construct one of these facilities with public money - which is extremely hard in today's economy - or attract private development of this type of use," Underhill said. "The city's administration, mayor and city council deserve a lot of credit for facilitating the development of this project on terms that protect its interests while helping Homestead to ensure the long-term viability of the facility."

While the focus of the facility will be primarily on soccer, it will also be used for other things.

"Since the majority of the facility will be turf field, we will be accommodating most sports that are played on turf or outdoor fields," said Doug Maddy of Brookewood Construction Co., the builder of the complex.

"In addition to soccer, we anticipate that lacrosse and football will be the more popular sports that the kids will be requesting be played inside the facility," he said.

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