Stallings opens discussions over land purchase, partnerships
The town of Stallings is one step closer to breaking ground on the proposed Sportsplex. The town council moved forward with the proposal during their Monday, Dec. 13 meeting, creating a committee to open discussions with land owners over the potential sites. Town Manager Brian Matthews, Town Attorney Melanie Cox and Mayor Lynda Paxton were named to the committee, which will meet with property owners for the three locations, at the junction of Idlewild Road and Interstate 485, at the corner of Idlewild and Stevens Mill roads and the Stevens Mill Stallings property across from Stallings Elementary.
The Sportsplex subcommittee also returned to the council with letters of interest from four potential stakeholders; Indian Trail based Carolina Courts, Porter Ridge Athletic Association, Landmark Development and the John Owens Baseball Group.
“Some said what we wanted to hear, but it was a sign (from all) they’re still interested,” council member and subcommittee chair Wyatt Dunn said. “I think we’re in a prime position to get (Carolina Courts) away from Indian Trail.”
While interested, the groups said it’s a long way before they’re willing to sign anything.
“I think it’s premature to discuss anything right now,” Porter Ridge Vice President Mike Vagnone said. “We’re certainly behind anything in the community that benefits the kids.”
Originally broached this fall, Stallings hopes to use a public-private partnership to build an 80-acre complex, potentially consisting of an indoor facility and at least four outdoor athletic fields. Data collected by National Amateur Sports projects an estimated 131,000 people annually traveling to Stallings to use the facility, spending $105 per visit on average. It could be argued that figure is slightly low, as Mecklenburg County uses a $231 average spending cost, when doing projections. Multiplying $105 by 131,000 people, that projects out to a yearly injection of $13.7 million into the Stallings economy.
With the Monroe Bypass coming through, Carolina Courts has to relocate from their current location. However despite the letter of interest, the business isn’t ready to sign on with Stallings just yet.
“At this point, we haven’t ruled any place out,”Carolina Courts President Ron Esser said. “Stallings and Indian Trail are the two top spots in Union County, but that’s not to say Wesley Chapel or Marvin might not come in.”
Indian Trail’s economic development department has been working with Carolina Courts since this fall to find options in the town, Esser said, while Stallings has pursued them since talk of the Sportsplex first began.
“They have to do what they feel is in their best interest,” Indian Trail Mayor John Quinn said. “I think they’re an asset to the town.”
The business can’t make a decision until they hear back from the Turnpike Authority, Esser said. All of the businesses being displaced by the Monroe Bypass construction will receive a financial settlement, but that figure isn’t expected until January, at the earliest.
“At this point, we don’t know what we’re getting for the gym,” Esser said, adding that a final settlement should be completed by March. As part of that settlement, Carolina Courts would continue to use the current building until a new one is completed, leasing it from the Turnpike Authority. Within the next 90 days, he anticipates making a final decision as to which town to locate in.
Landmark Development officials meanwhile adopted a wait and see approach, suggesting the town needs to take action sooner rather than later.
“Without immediate growth, (this) is a bedroom community,” the letter of interest reads.
Council members cautioned not to rush out and approve development just to appease potential stakeholders.
“This really ties into what our vision of Stallings is,” council member Paul Frost said. “We don’t need to be the Disneyland of Charlotte. At the same time, this (Sportsplex) could be a good quality of life enhancement.”
The Stallings tax base is currently 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial, Town Manager Brian Matthews reminded council members.
“Ultimately, if you’re a bedroom community, the bedrooms pay the bill,” Matthews said. “We are 80 percent residential and that is a heavy burden.”
Getting answers on partnerships
The town council also authorized the subcommittee to meet with Jonathan Fines from Fines Strategy, to get consulting help on how a public/private partnership of this size would move forward.
Questions involve how it would be funded. The first option would involve Stallings purchasing the land and leasing it to National Amateur Sports. Once the lease is in place, National Amateur Sports would become the umbrella management organization which would work with and help recruit potential tenants. If Stallings purchased the land, the town would make debt service payments. The return of investment for the town would come in the form of increased land value, from hotels and that sort of thing.
Under the second option of an equity partnership, Stallings would agree to provide annual payments for ten years. At the end of the term, the town would own the land and operate as a minority partner, sharing in any profits generated by the facility.
The town could pay out of pocket for the land,using the General Fund, get a loan or use a bond referendum.