Huckelberry: Use $1.75 million budgeted for road repairs to help pay for soccer fields

2014-06-14T00:00:00Z 2014-06-25T18:51:41Z Huckelberry: Use $1.75 million budgeted for road repairs to help pay for soccer fieldsBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wants to take money allocated for road repair in next fiscal year’s budget and use it to make a down payment on 167 acres of land near the Kino Sports Complex.

The county is on the verge of purchasing the property from the developer, Stardust-Reif, for $8.75 million, with the intention of connecting the land to the Kino Sports Complex and creating a large-scale regional soccer facility.

The purchase requires a $1.75 million down payment, which would be deducted from $5 million set aside in the proposed budget for road repairs, according to Huckelberry’s proposal.

Huckelberry also gave the board an option to take the money from another area of the budget, according to a memo he sent earlier this week.

The board is scheduled to adopt the $1.18 billion budget, which includes a 62-cent increase in the primary property tax rate, on Tuesday.

The 2014-15 fiscal year begins July 1.

County officials, as well as soccer supporters, have said there is a huge demand for more soccer fields, which would allow the region to host more tournaments and boost the economy.

Huckelberry has previously referred to the potential purchase of the land as both a “game changer” and possibly “the most important strategic sports acquisition made by the county in decades.”

The property is bordered by East Benson Highway, South Kino Parkway, East Irvington Road and Interstate 10.

However, Supervisor Ally Miller said the county’s “build it and they will come” mentality toward soccer facilities is too risky of a financial investment.

If the county buys the property, it would open space for 19 more soccer fields, which would bring the total number of fields at the complex to 28.

There would also be space for stadium seating to accommodate 5,000 to 7,000 fans.

The county would still have to make five subsequent payments after making the down payment.

Those payments could come from money allocated in the November 2015 bond election, if voters approve the measure.

If not, the county would use money from its general fund to pay off the debt.

Road maintenance has also been a popular and sometimes contentious topic at board meetings, with officials reallocating money from supervisor districts and taking other measures to fix some of the county’s worst roads.

Although there would be only $3.25 million left for road repairs after the down payment for the property, Huckelberry said the amount of money is irrelevant because of the number of road repairs needed.

“This problem is so big that, whether it’s $3 million or $5 million is immaterial. It’s not going to make a dent in the problem,” he said. “It’s a $300 million problem and we really need to find some comprehensive solutions to it.”

Building more soccer facilities in the Tucson area will benefit the region more than repairing a few roads in certain areas of the county, he said.

In a recent memo, Huckelberry cited a University of Arizona Eller College of Management study that said the economic impact of the Tucson Association of Realtors Shootout, formerly the Fort Lowell Shootout, was $1.4 million in 2013.

Also, the Kino Sports Complex hosted 55 events last year, including soccer, which brought an estimated $8.5 million to the region, according to a January memo.

Miller still wasn’t convinced, saying the county needs to take care of other priorities instead of buying land.

“We’ve got to prioritize roads, the Sheriff’s Department, taking care of employees and making sure we’re funding the things we should be funding,” she said.

She was also concerned with burdening taxpayers with the cost of the new property if voters don’t approve the measure in a bond election.

“I think it’s bad timing and a bad investment at this time.”

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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