Details what members consider potential problems
Before the town of Stallings signs off on any sportsplex deal, members of its finance committee want several questions answered.
The citizen members of the committee asked town council member and committee chairman Paul Frost to present their letter to the town board Monday, Jan. 24.
“What assurances do we have the anticipated revenue (from the project) would come to Stallings and not other nearby municipalities?” the members wrote. They also asked how the sportsplex would affect the town’s tax rate and five-year budget plan, which the finance committee is working on now.
“Has (the) town completed a background check, including credit and financials on all partners, including Carolina Hurricanes baseball?” the members wrote. They also want to know details of how the partnership would work.
“We’re concerned this may be progressing faster behind closed doors (and) want to make sure due diligence” is performed, finance committee member Jason Gunn said. The town should exercise patience, since the project would become its largest expense in history. “We want to make sure it’s not going too fast.”
Originally broached last 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. That equals a yearly injection of $13.7 million into the Stallings economy.
But finance committee members worry that:
• The town has no analysis independent of National Amateur Sports, which is a partner in the project and, therefore, invested in making it sound good.
• Without a guarantee of county water and sewer service, the town could end up with an empty lot while it waits in line for county utilities.
Any Union County construction project must worry about sewer service because the county has a waiting list for capacity. But Stallings has a contract with Mecklenburg County guaranteeing 3 million gallons in sewer capacity. Currently, the town only uses a million gallons but town officials still don’t have a firm idea of how much capacity the sportsplex would need.
“We ought to find answers to all of these” questions, Frost said. “I think it’s a good start to our due diligence period.”
Fellow council member Reed Esarove agreed, saying, “I love the questions. They’re point on.”
While the town doesn’t have a deadline, the board has felt some pressure to move as quickly as possible, Mayor Lynda Paxton said.
“We felt some urgency because Carolina Courts would be one of the primary partners,” Paxton said. Carolina Courts, currently in Indian Trail, must move because of the impending start of the Monroe Bypass. But a lawsuit has delayed the start of construction until October, relieving that urgency, Paxton said.
“Obviously (the committee) has some concerns, (which) would be gathered during the due diligence period,” Paxton said, adding town officials have learned a lot in closed-session discussions.
Also the N.C. Local Government Commission must approve any large financing arrangement, which usually takes 60 days. State grants for parks have to be submitted by the early part of the year, and the grant committee announces its decisions in February or March.
Town residents will get a presentation on the sportsplex data at a Feb. 24 information meeting that starts at 7 p.m. at town hall. Officials will present renderings of the proposed complex, and residents can ask questions.