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November 29, 2010


City looking at $20 million sports complex near arena

by Deena Winter

At one point, the $340 million arena project proposed to Lincoln voters included new sports fields up north by Haymarket Park, but as the election got closer, arena coordinators took that part out of the proposal.
I thought they’d lose a lot of soccer mom votes doing that, but as it turned out arena supporters still advertised the sports fields as being part of the plan, since they would “eventually” probably get built anyway. I call that false advertising, but we agreed to disagree.
Anyway, now that voters have approved the mammoth arena project, talk has returned to those sports fields. Parks Director Lynn Johnson said the city is looking at building a “tournament sports complex” north of the arena, near Oak Lake, to add to the much-loved concept of a sports triangle (Memorial Stadium, Haymarket Park and the arena).
Johnson says they consider the Mid-America Sports Complex in Shawnee, Kan., to be a good model. That 70-acre, 12-field softball complex hosts softball leagues, baseball leagues, baseball camps and national and regional softball tournaments.
Speaking as a baseball mom, Lincoln could use a few more fields to play on, and the ability to host tournaments would bring people to Lincoln — and presumably, its stores. But there are already a number of such facilities in the region, Johnson said, so to make Lincoln’s a little better, they’ll likely recommend it have all artificial turf to guarantee play.
What would this cost? Johnson says $18 to $20 million — but he thinks it would generate enough revenue to offset the cost. That sounds like a revenue bond to me. He says a proposal for the sports complex “should come forward in the next few years.”

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jayne Sebby
    Nov 29 2010

    The space north of Oak Lake is already serving the 30,000-plus licensed dogs in this city as a free-run park, one of only two in the entire city. The other, near Holmes Lake, is so over-used that P&R had to fence off a section for small dogs so they wouldn’t get trampled. Use of the Oak Lake dog run is also growing and P & R recently doubled the size of the parking lot.

    As a resident of Woods Park Neighborhood, I question the need and demand for a facility as large as the proposed one. We’ve had endless battles with P&R about expanding facilities in Woods Park when the current facilites aren’t being used and there’s no local demand for additional facilities. The City Council finally put a stop to that project when we proved that P&R was misrepresenting previous expansions as less invasive then they actually were (ya gotta love aerial photos) and P&R’s own policy prohibited regional sports events in Woods Park.

    Lynn Johnson is on record as stating that he would never build another high-end baseball diamond in Lincoln because of the incredible annual cost of maintenance. (Thank you Mayor Wesley for “selling” the Woods Park softball diamond to NE Wesleyan to use as their exclusive baseball field.) He should be reminded of that comment as he proceeds with this project.

    On the other hand, I’d love to hear the comments of mothers when they realize that their children will be playing on top of the city’s former dump. All that garbage percolating up through the soil, methane gas rising, and who-knows what other health threats worning their way into Johnny and Susie’s cells. That’s the real reason for the interest in “artificial turf.”

    If parents think the city needs more sports-specific playing fields for their kids, fine. Let the parents pay for them, rather than tax-payers who already shoulder the burden of the school system.

  2. ej
    Nov 29 2010

    Jane, there’s no mention of the sports complex being built north of Oak Lake, only that space north of the arena near Oak Lake is being considered.

    Why aren’t you interested in comments from fathers about their children playing on top of the city’s former dump? You don’t think we care? Well, I’m a father. I care. And I’m not moved by your comments about garbage percolating, methane gas rising and who know what else invading our kids cells. You are kidding, right?

  3. Roger Yant
    Nov 29 2010

    Does this ever end? Spending and projections. Lets get the Arena built first, then, if it warrants and the arena is making so much money, it can fund the complex. I’m all for it if this is not going to be another tax the people, say, lets put 2% tax on all groceries we buy at our local grocery stores. Sometime, we have to step back and take a breath, can we afford this at that time. Lets build the arena first.

  4. Arena Fan
    Nov 29 2010

    The arena was the right move. These environmental concerns are calculated risks that any urban development of this magnatude considers. The 2 people I trust most in Lincoln on environmental issues are Chris Beutler and Ken Haar, and they’re both very supportive of the arena. We’re losing events and cashflow to Council Bluffs and Grand Island because they have modern arenas and we don’t.

    Here’s a challenge for all the arena opponents, please name a city the size of Lincoln that has an arena as out of date as Pershing? Just one.

  5. Deb K.
    Nov 30 2010

    Would this include tennis courts?

  6. Nov 30 2010

    Not that I’m aware of.

  7. scottw
    Dec 3 2010

    e.j. ,

    All of the environmental problems mentioned by Jayne are also brought up in the report done for the city by HWS. I don’t have the time to find it for you, but, if you’re interested in reading it, it is online.


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