The Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau wants to build a $3 million, 14-field sports complex on 54 acres of city property near downtown Lebanon.
They project $32 million a year in economic development from the complex on former wellfields off Ohio 63, Main Street in Lebanon.
The facility, employing three new workers, would be financed, owned and run by the visitors bureau.
“I love the concept,” Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer said during a Lebanon City Council work session on May 6 on the plan.
The projections are based on the facility hosting 25 sports events spanning 76 days a year and drawing 250,000 to the city, in central Warren County near Kings Island Amusement Park and other area attractions.
“All of those numbers are very conservative,” Phil Smith, president and CEO of the county convention and visitors bureau, said during the work session.
The Miami Valley Gaming racino and Cincinnati Premium Outlets Mall are on Ohio 63, south of Lebanon, near Interstate 75.
The city council agreed to hire an appraiser to assess the land’s value before deciding whether to move forward with the donation. The city no longer needs the wellfields, since contracting with Cincinnati for water.
The land adjoins the city’s current 30-field soccer complex. Assistant City Manager Scott Brunka said a bridge could be built to connect the two complexes.
City Manager Pat Clements estimated the land would be valued at $4,000 to $5,000 an acre. The city would have to reimburse the city’s water fund for the land, he said.
Previously the bureau had proposed building its sports complex on property that Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices owns along Ohio 741, south of Lebanon, using hotel taxes. A sports complex was in plans for development of Otterbein’s entire 1,400 acre property submitted recently to Warren County planning officials.
The bureau also proposed building the complex at the 97-acre Warren County Fairgrounds, just north of downtown Lebanon. The state and racino operators have pledged up to $6 million to redevelop the fairgrounds and surrounding area, since Lebanon Raceway was moved to the racino complex.
Smith said he was in talks with several area banks and the Warren County Port Authority about financing the construction.
Otherwise Smith said the tourism bureau was out of space on which to host athletic events involving sports, including soccer, lacrosse and ultimate frisbee, played on long, rectangular sports fields.
Events are held on public fields in Lebanon, Springboro, Mason and other communities around the community.
“Our growth has plateaued. We’ve gotten all the space there is to get,” Smith said last week.
The plan also calls for on-demand lighting, parking, concessions and a playground, and a $300,000 annual operating budget. The city would include a provision clawing back the property if the new complex failed.
“We’re not going to lease the property carte blanche,” Clements said. ““This is certainly in the conceptual phase.”
If council donates the land, Smith said it would Spring 2016 at earliest before the complex could open, following design, construction and a waiting period to ensure the grass filled in.