Play Ball? Visions of a Fife sports complex resurface

Two years after the City of Fife sold a site that was being targeted as a location for a multi-million dollar soccer complex, the city is looking at funding a study to see if developing a sports complex would bring athletic tourists to the city.

Fife City Council recently approved the submission of a grant request for $37,500 from the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee to fund a detailed study of the issue after a preliminary report found such a complex would draw sports crowds.

The application for more money to pay for a consultant to study a topic the city had just abandoned was not lost on council member Pat Hulcey, who saw the request for more money as spending good money after bad.

“We have been down this road,” he said.

The city had been pondering a sports complex for a 54-acre site along on 20th Avenue East only to sell the site for $12 million in 2011 because the economic downturn mothballed plans and the city found itself in need of cash.

The original plans envisioned a sports complex that would host regional soccer tournaments and flood visitors into local hotels. A study at the time concluded the facility would have been a regional draw. The land, however, was sold to the Washington State Department of Transportation for open space.

Proceeds from the sale beefed up the city’s bottom line, but about $8 million was put into the city’s Miscellaneous Capital Projects Fund, which could be used for funding a future sports facility.

And much like the last consultant’s report on the concept, a preliminary study has concluded that a sports complex would succeed. The city had opted to spend $7,500 on a preliminary study for the Milton Edgewood Chamber of Commerce rather than for a full report since much of the questions were answered in previous reports. The chamber's original Lodging Tax funding request was for $45,000. A second application is now being drafted for the remainder. The city’s lodging tax fund totals about $557,000 a year and funds tourism-related and marketing activities that range from the Fife Historical Society, Harvest Festival, the Daffodil Festival and float and membership in the Tacoma-Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“$37,000 is not necessarily a lot of money to give to one project, but it really depends on the project,” Fife’s Marketing Specialist Laurel Potter said.

Fife’s LTAC members will gather all funding requests and provide the City Council with recommendations, which could then approve the list outright or remove some funding requests or send the list back for further review. A new state law does not allow the City Council to change the amount of the funding recommended by the committee.

Sportsplex USA from California prepared the pre-feasibility study and would likely do the work of the full study if the request is approved. The initial study concluded that there is strong support from the community and its leadership for a sports complex in Fife and that there is a need for a facility of this sort in the Puget Sound.

A sports complex within Fife would have great freeway access, be located close enough to Seatac International Airport to draw outside athletes but also be located close enough to local users for more predictable sports events.

Fife, however, lacks mid and higher end hotel rooms that are sought after by traveling athletes. Troubles with the area’s rainy weather would be solved by installing synthetic turf on the playing surfaces as a way to maximize the days of use.

“Ultimately, the pre-feasibility study recommends that a full and comprehensive feasibility study be prepared given the sizable investment necessary to construct a tournament quality sports complex,” the city report stated.

The sites listed as potential locations for a sports complex are along Levee Road, one at the corner of 45th Street and 70th Street, a Freeman Road site and a patch of land along Frank Albert Road.

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