The city of Lexington and the Bluegrass Sports Commission are proposing to develop 135 acres of city-owned green space and build a private sports complex.
The 21-field complex would be at the southwest corner of the intersection of New Circle and Versailles Roads, and would only be accessible from Parkers Mill Road. According to the most recent plan, the complex would be used Monday through Wednesday for middle- and high-school sports practices, closed on Thursday for maintenance, and host tournaments on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The total cost is projected at about $25 million — about $6.5 million through sponsors, and the city would fund the remaining $18.5 million. Additionally the city will lease the 135 acres to the BSC for $1 per year, for 100 years.
The BSC commissioned an economic-impact study, which estimates the benefit to Lexington at about $25 million per year — largely the estimated spending by visitors at hotels and restaurants. The numbers in this study appear to be based on 3,000 daily visitors using the complex during tournaments for seven months each year.
The BSC also indicated the largest tenant would be the Fayette County Public Schools, which would pay $200,000 annually. . Athletes would be bused up to an hour each day to and from the sports complex for practice.
This beautiful piece of land is directly adjacent our neighborhood, Wellesley Heights; several houses share a property line with this green space. You may expect us to be opposed to this enormous sports complex because it’s in our backyard, and we are. The BSC has failed to indicate if and how it will comply with Kentucky laws protecting our quality of life and home values by restricting noise that would be produced.
We are not opposed to anything in that space; several years ago, our neighborhood worked with LYSA on a plan to develop this land into a combination of sports fields and public park space, but the city did not have the $7 million to carry out the plan.
Our opposition, however, extends well beyond our neighborhood. The Beaumont and Palomar neighborhoods also are close to the proposed complex and will feel the effect of added traffic, noise from games and tournaments, and higher demand on restaurants and hotels/motels.
And what if the complex is under-utilized? Similar sports complexes throughout the country lose millions each year. What if this complex cannot be profitably run? Taxpayers will likely be on the hook for millions in annual operating losses.
The site is about as far away as you can get within Fayette County from I-75 and I-64, which could be a problem when trying to attract teams from across the region. The Wouldn’t it be more feasible to locate the complex near major highways and close to many hotels and restaurants? The BSC has said that the sports complex in Versailles, just 10 miles down the road, is failing because of the lack of local hotels and restaurants.
The only access to the site is via Parkers Mill Road, a winding two-lane road with narrow shoulders. Many accidents already occur each year on this road and many more would certainly occur if 3,000 out-of-towners and dozens of school buses were added to the traffic.
This property was donated to the city for use as a park. The city is proposing to essentially give the BSC the taxpayer’s parkland for mostly private purposes. What does this tell landowners who would consider donating land to the city in the future?
The property itself is filled with sinkholes and it’s estimated it would cost several million dollars to level its unique karst topography. While the BSC has said that this piece of land is perfect because it is “free and available,” other parcels of private land can surely be purchased and leveled for less..
The site is home to thousands of trees, many species of animals and important habitats, including bat caves, that will be negatively impacted. Lexington had tried to attract bats near McConnell Springs to help control the mosquito population, as each bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes nightly.
The Urban County Council will be voting on whether to financially support the sports complex, and give the 135-acre site to the BSC. The time for the vote does not appear to be set, but email council members at councilmembers
@lexingtonky.gov and let them know how you feel.
Paul Natof is president of the Wellesley Heights Neighborhood Association.