Residents of a neighborhood close to a proposed youth sports complex near Versailles and New Circle roads urged the Lexington council on Tuesday to cut $7 million in city funding for the complex in the proposed budget.
Tom Creech, who lives in Wellesley Heights, which is next door to the 130-acre site, said the city had plans to build a public park on that land in the 1990s. Creech showed the council plans for the park that included green space and some youth sports parks. Creech said the neighborhoods in the area were repeatedly told that there was no money in the budget for that plan. But the city now has money for a sports park that will benefit athletes and tourism-related businesses, he said.
“We would like to see this park,” Creech said, referring to the previous designs.
The Urban County Council gave its first reading Tuesday for the $345 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The council does not vote during a first reading. A final vote is scheduled for Thursday’s council meeting. No council member made any remarks after the nearly hour-long public hearing where a dozen people spoke. Some spoke in opposition. Others spoke in favor.
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Wellesley Heights neighbors questioned the traffic impact on Parkers Mill Road and the noise and light pollution the park would generate.
“There will be little benefit to the majority of citizens of Lexington,” said David Stone, another member of Wellesley Heights. “The facility will not be used by the majority of citizens.”
Stone said his daughter played softball on a travel team. One of her games at a park in Owensboro ended at 2 a.m. That’s why these sports complexes are typically not adjacent to neighborhoods, he said.
Carrie Trapp said the project is moving too fast. It was first announced in March. “It almost feels like we are trying to steal second base,” Trapp said. “I would like to slow this project down.”
Parkers Mill Road is too narrow and not adequate to handle traffic into and out of the sports complex, she said.
“If we are going to build a state-of-the-art youth complex,” Trapp said, “then we need a state-of-the-art road.”
Brian Miller, CEO and president of the Bluegrass Sports Commission, told the council the youth sports complex will generate $23 million a year in its first year, its economic impact study showed.
Miller said a traffic study will address neighbor’s concerns. Miller and other sports commission members urged council members to keep the $7 million in the budget.
“It’s a placeholder in the budget,” Miller said. “It allows us to secure our financing — almost a dollar for dollar match.”
Miller said no matter where the sports complex is built, neighbors won’t like it.
Brooks Downing, chairman of the sports commission, said Lexington schools don’t have enough space to hold all practices and is interested in leasing space. Other local leagues also need the space.
“It will help our children in Central Kentucky and it will be an economic driver for Central Kentucky,” Downing said.
In addition to the $7 million for the sports complex, the proposed budget includes a 3.5 percent pay increase for most city employees, $5.2 million for a new fire station in Masterson Station, and $10 million for a nearly $250 million renovation and expansion of the Lexington Convention Center.
During its deliberations on the budget over the past two months, the council kept the $7 million for the youth sports complex in the budget, but some council members had questions about the project. The 130-acres of city-owned land was donated by Kentucky River Coal in 1997 with the understanding that it would be used for a park.
The sports commission has pledged $6.5 million in corporate sponsorships for the proposed complex that could have more than 20 sports fields and help lure baseball, softball, soccer and other sports tournaments to Lexington.