DALLAS — The Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kan., believes, “If we build it, they will come.” In this case “we” is the city, “it” is a $35 million bond-financed multi-field youth soccer complex, and “they” are young soccer tournament players and their soccer moms and dads who will stay in Overland Park hotels and motels and eat at Overland Park restaurants.The city will finance the lighted, 12-field complex with some of the proceeds from Monday’s competitive sale of $65 million of general obligation internal improvement bonds. The proceeds will also provide funds for about $20 million of road projects, a $2.9 million bridge-replacement project, and $7 million of upgrades to municipal facilities.The city’s GO debt has unenhanced triple-A ratings from the three major rating agencies. With the sale, Overland Park will have $197.2 million of outstanding triple-A debt.The city’s estimated population of 170,000 is up 13% from the 2000 census. The assessed property value increased by 4% to $2.8 billion in fiscal 2006, but the estimated market valuation exceeds $16.7 billion.Public Financial Management Inc. is the city’s financial adviser. Kutak Rock LLP is bond counsel.Overland Park expects to be the site for regional, and even national, youth soccer tournaments with the new complex, said city spokesman Sean Reilly.“There is not another sports facility in the Kansas City area, or even in the Midwest, with 12 lighted soccer fields with synthetic turf at a single location,” Reilly said. The Kansas City metropolitan area has one of the highest levels of participation in youth soccer of any place in the country, according to Reilly. There are more games to be played than can be accommodated by the available facilities.“This complex will help alleviate some of the shortage of fields, but it won’t eliminate it,” he said. “It won’t meet all of the demand. But with the synthetic turf we expect the fields to be playable 300 days a year, and the lighting system will allow us to schedule night games.”The complex will include a special field with bleachers and other facilities for championship games, Reilly said, as well as water features, such as wading pools and fountains, for children who may not be interested in soccer. Guests also have convenient access to nearby retail and dining establishments.The soccer park will provide about 1,900 parking spaces and a multipurpose field house with meeting rooms. The city expects the complex to generate 150,000 new visitor days for Overland Park hotels and motels. Annual attendance at the complex is projected at 1.4 million, with total attendance approaching two million when including visitors to a nearby public petting zoo.Taxes on those hotel rooms will support the bonds financing the soccer complex, said David Scott, the city’s chief financial officer.The City Council in May approved an increase in the hotel tax rate from 6% to 9% to be effective on July 1, with the additional 3% earmarked for tourism-related capital projects, including the construction of the soccer complex and improvements to an entertainment district.“The GO bonds are supported by a total revenue pledge, but we expect to meet the debt service on the portion of the bonds going to the soccer complex with revenues from the hotel tax,” Scott said.Scott attributed the city’s across-the-board triple-A rating to “good management, good timing, and good foresight.”“Over the years, the City Council has taken the correct action ahead of many of our neighboring cities, so Overland Park got into retail development very early,” he said. Keeping the highest rating available is a daunting task, Scott said.“It’s something we all aspire to, and it is a good challenge to maintain a triple-A,” he said. “We have a lot of expectations from the City Council and the public.”
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