County tries to hedge its SportsQuest bet

Chesterfield County is considering investing in a planned sports complex that it hopes will boost sports tourism and give residents use of new synthetic turf fields.

At the same time, the county wants to limit its risk should that mega sports complex, currently under construction near Route 288 and Powhite Parkway, flop.

Lawyers for the county are negotiating a 20-year lease for nine soccer fields, a few basketball courts and a senior center at SportsQuest, according to officials.

SportsQuest does not own the land to be leased, but Garrett Hart, an official with Chesterfield’s department of economic development, said that SportsQuest will be closing on the land when the county cuts a check for $4.3 million for the lease.

“We are protected from a lease standpoint with a lien on 114 acres for the leased portion of the deal,” Hart said. “So should the project not be completed, we get first position lien against the property.”

He said the county would foreclose on the property if the fields are not built.

The proposed lease will be voted on today at a County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The county has also proposed a sort of tax increment financing, where SportsQuest can get back five years of tax money from both sales and property tax increases if it meets certain performance criteria. That’s a risk-free investment, the county said.

“SportsQuest does not get the economic development incentives unless they complete the project and meet the performance objective,”

In its agenda, the county used numbers widely circulated by SportsQuest marketing materials, such as a projected hiring of 500 employees and a $250 million investment. That figure includes prospective commercial real estate development that would piggy-back on the sports facilities with amenities such as a hotel and office space.

Hart said the county would look at payroll stubs to see that the complex has hired at least 500 full-time employees. SportsQuest would prove that it had invested at least $100 million when the assessed value rises by that much, officials said.

The county said it needs more athletic facilities.

Mike Golden, the director of parks and recreation in Chesterfield, said that residents will have use of the senior center and basketball courts most of the time and use of the turf fields during the week but not on weekends.

He said the $4.3 million the county is paying to SportsQuest is money that was already allocated. “These are all recreational facilities of the type that we need over the next five years or so, and we are giving up improving on four fields for the use of nine new fields,” Golden said.

Directors of several local soccer leagues have expressed concern that the fields won’t be available when they need them. Golden said he plans to negotiate with SportsQuest on the leagues’ behalf.

Some residents are concerned about the use of the funds at a time when budgets are tight.

John Addison, director of Midlothian Youth Soccer League, said he’s not sure why county money is used for a public venture when the county has cut back maintenance on several fields.

“As a concept, I think SportsQuest is a great idea, and it will be wonderful if it happens as planned for the county and for athletes,” he said.

“My concern is the practical application right now. There are just so many questions that are unanswered.

“What happens if the project doesn’t come to fruition? Does the county have the money to complete it?”

Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to [email protected]

Chesterfield County is considering investing in a planned sports complex that it hopes will boost sports tourism and give residents use of new synthetic turf fields.

At the same time, the county wants to limit its risk should that mega sports complex, currently under construction near Route 288 and Powhite Parkway, flop.

Lawyers for the county are negotiating a 20-year lease for nine soccer fields, a few basketball courts and a senior center at SportsQuest, according to officials.

SportsQuest does not own the land to be leased, but Garrett Hart, an official with Chesterfield’s department of economic development, said that SportsQuest will be closing on the land when the county cuts a check for $4.3 million for the lease.

“We are protected from a lease standpoint with a lien on 114 acres for the leased portion of the deal,” Hart said. “So should the project not be completed, we get first position lien against the property.”

He said the county would foreclose on the property if the fields are not built.

The proposed lease will be voted on today at a County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The county has also proposed a sort of tax increment financing, where SportsQuest can get back five years of tax money from both sales and property tax increases if it meets certain performance criteria. That’s a risk-free investment, the county said.

“SportsQuest does not get the economic development incentives unless they complete the project and meet the performance objective,”

In its agenda, the county used numbers widely circulated by SportsQuest marketing materials, such as a projected hiring of 500 employees and a $250 million investment. That figure includes prospective commercial real estate development that would piggy-back on the sports facilities with amenities such as a hotel and office space.

Hart said the county would look at payroll stubs to see that the complex has hired at least 500 full-time employees. SportsQuest would prove that it had invested at least $100 million when the assessed value rises by that much, officials said.

The county said it needs more athletic facilities.

Mike Golden, the director of parks and recreation in Chesterfield, said that residents will have use of the senior center and basketball courts most of the time and use of the turf fields during the week but not on weekends.

He said the $4.3 million the county is paying to SportsQuest is money that was already allocated. “These are all recreational facilities of the type that we need over the next five years or so, and we are giving up improving on four fields for the use of nine new fields,” Golden said.

Directors of several local soccer leagues have expressed concern that the fields won’t be available when they need them. Golden said he plans to negotiate with SportsQuest on the leagues’ behalf.

Some residents are concerned about the use of the funds at a time when budgets are tight.

John Addison, director of Midlothian Youth Soccer League, said he’s not sure why county money is used for a public venture when the county has cut back maintenance on several fields.

“As a concept, I think SportsQuest is a great idea, and it will be wonderful if it happens as planned for the county and for athletes,” he said.

“My concern is the practical application right now. There are just so many questions that are unanswered.

“What happens if the project doesn’t come to fruition? Does the county have the money to complete it?”

Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to [email protected]

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Chris Miller
Chris Miller
12 years ago

This is certainly an interesting approach to funding such a large project. Creative funding and participation by local governments can certainly accelerate project of this size if done properly. Based on this article, the appropriation of funds might be the jump start it needs to go to the next level. I’m assuming proper due diligence will insure the developers have escrow money or investment commitments to launch the actual build – thus protecting tax payers further. After working with many developers on their 3D visualization projects (http://www.pacificommultimedia.com) I have found that many details of a project will also come forth… Read more »

Scott B
Scott B
12 years ago

When a $250 million project hinges on a $4 million dollar investment from local government, it makes me go hmmm.

Denise K
Denise K
12 years ago

Has the County even seen the financials for this questionable venture? Sure, the SportsQuest plan would be a great opportunity for Chesterfield and the Richmond area, but given all the financial woes the County is facing right now, shouldn’t they be dedicating scarce resources to things besides soccer fields? In fact, with times as tight as they are, I can’t believe a $4+ million expenditure for use of soccer fields is being considered. That $4 million could fund a lot of other valuable programs or maybe even restore some of the positions the County has recently cut. What guarantees does… Read more »

Redbeard
Redbeard
12 years ago

It’s obvious from the Chesterfield Board’s very lengthy discussion of the SportsQuest item at their meeting today that there’s still some doubt…as there should be. Even the Chairman recognizes the SportsQuest venture is a “start-up”, as he noted in his comments. But, when has the county given money to any other start-up companies?