Plans for a more than $26 million youth sports complex in Fayette County are limping forward as city and backers of the project try to nail down a potential site.
The Bluegrass Sports Commission, a sports nonprofit, has spearheaded efforts to get a multi-sport youth sports complex built in Fayette County. The commission had originally proposed using 130 acres the city owns near Versailles and New Circle roads. The commission pledged $6.5 million in corporate sponsorships. The Lexington Urban County Council agreed to set aside $7 million for the project in the current-year budget. But that $7 million in bonds has not yet been issued.
Geoff Reed, chief of staff for Mayor Jim Gray, said the city is still looking at alternative sites for the proposed park other than the location off of Versailles Road, which is across from Cardinal Run ballpark. There is currently no access on Versailles Road to the land. That means all traffic would currently have to enter off of Parkers Mill Road.
“We are evaluating alternative sites and continue to look at the Cardinal Run site,” Reed said. “Obviously, there are issues with the Cardinal Run site, particularly traffic.”
Residents of Wellesley Heights subdivision, which borders the potential park, have strongly opposed the project. Traffic is a top concern.
Brian Miller, CEO and president of Bluegrass Sports Commission, said this week the commission continues to work with the city on the project. Miller said they have completed geotechnical and other studies at the Cardinal Run site.
“We are still ready to bring $6.5 million dollars to the table and make sure there’s no risk for the city,” Miller said. “We still believe we have a good plan moving forward.”
Versailles Road is a state road. To get an entrance on Versailles Road it would take state approval, which can take a long time.
Reed said the city has looked at other land the city owns to see if there is an alternative site that would be less problematic. A site on Russell Cave Road was looked at but dismissed. Other possible sites are also being explored.
“There was never any guarantee of Cardinal Run,” Reed said.
Backers of the plan say Lexington needs additional sports fields. Many local youth sports leagues say there are not enough tournament-level playing fields in Fayette County. Fayette County parents have to travel long distances to take their kids to regional tournaments. The sports complex could bring in a lot of money for local hotels and restaurants, tourism officials have said. A Bluegrass Sports Commission study projected the economic impact at $23 million in its first year.
But some have cautioned that much of the additional tax revenue generated from the sports complex would go to the state in sales taxes. Hotel and motel taxes go to tourism-related agencies, not back in the city’s coffers.
The commission has also proposed that a private company run and manage the park once it is built.
“I know the council has had a lot of questions about that,” Reed said. “I think a lot of these issues will have to be addressed before a strategy can be formulated and we can move forward.”