Pima County to buy soccer site, Painted Hills

2014-07-02T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T11:53:29Z Pima County to buy soccer site, Painted HillsBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Pima County will buy 167 acres near the Kino Sports Complex to build soccer fields.

Money for the purchase will not come from funds set aside for road repairs, however, as had been previously suggested.

Instead, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to make the $1.75 million down payment on the property — total cost $8.75 million — using money from its year-ending fund balance.

They were able to do that because the year-end surplus is $2 million to $3 million higher than expected, according to county officials.

Republican Supervisors Ally Miller and Ray Carroll voted against the measure.

The county wants to connect the property to the Kino sports complex to create a large-scale soccer facility that could host championship tournaments.

The land, now owned by Stardust-Reif, is bordered by East Benson Highway, South Kino Parkway, East Irvington Road and Interstate 10.

There was some backlash last month from residents after County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry proposed using road-repair funds for the down payment.

However, the board voted a couple of weeks ago to put about $24 million from this year’s general fund budget into a contingency fund, with the intention of taking the down payment from that money.

The $24 million included money for road repair, the sheriff’s and information-technology departments and indigent defense services.

Those departments would have had to prove their need for the money in writing, and the remaining money would have been used for the down payment.

In the end, county officials used money left over from last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The board majority supports the purchase, saying the region could benefit economically from a large-scale soccer facility.

Miller has been an outspoken opponent of the acquisition, saying the county needs to focus on providing core services instead of buying more property.

She also said it would cost too much to build and maintain the fields.

Huckelberry said building the fields could cost between $25 million and $35 million. The county will pay off the rest of the purchase in five installments.

Those payments, as well as the money to build the fields, could come from money allocated in the November 2015 bond election, if voters approve the measure.

If voters reject it, the county will have to take money from its general fund to pay off the property.

Painted Hills purchase

The county will move forward with the purchase of a coveted 286-acre parcel in the west-side Painted Hills area.

The board voted 4-1 to use $3 million from a 2004 open-space program to make a down payment on the land, which is owned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

Miller voted against the measure.

The county will buy the land for $7.5 million, including the down payment.

The county had to wait for the Tucson City Council to vote on a bond ordinance amendment because the money was originally designated for a city open-space project. The council unanimously approved the amendment Monday night.

County officials hope to pay the balance of the cost with money set aside for open space from a November 2015 bond election.

If that option fails, the money could come from a special environmental fund the county shares with the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, funded with sales revenue from the resort.

The fund could generate between $800,000 and $1 million a year beginning in 2016. The county would then pay five annual payments of about $1 million.

The purchase of the saguaro-studded Painted Hills property is part of the county’s effort to preserve open space and connect the area to nearby Tucson Mountain Park.

Racing back on at Rillito

The Board of Supervisors approved a finalized contract with the Rillito Park Foundation, which will operate horse racing next year at the Rillito Park Horse Racetrack.

The one-year agreement, which is renewable each year for up to three years, requires the nonprofit group to pay a minimum annual fee of $14,000, as well as a standard fee of $1,750 per event for any additional racing days.

The county also will receive a 50-cent surcharge for paid admission to the park during racing season.

The Rillito Park Foundation will take the place of the Pima County Horsemen’s Association, which operated horse racing at the track for the previous 25 years.

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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