Cape Girardeau City Council approves sports complex project

The Cape Girardeau City Council voted to approve a proposal regarding the next project to be funded by the city's restaurant tax -- an indoor sports complex.

The vote came after the council heard presentations from consultants with HVS and Ballard*King, outlining details about each of the four projects reviewed by the City of Cape Girardeau/MidAmerica Hotels Corp. Feasibility Study joint committee.

The six-person committee was formed through an agreement between the city and MidAmerica Hotels to recommend either an aquatics center, indoor sports complex, agriculture expo center or combined hotel and convention center as the next restaurant tax project. The 1 percent tax charged to customers at restaurants historically has paid for tourism-related projects, including Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus.

The restaurant tax is estimated to bring in more than $22.5 million through 2030, according to city estimates. The settlement agreement between the city and MidAmerica allocates $5 million for a new police station, leaving about $17.5 million for the newest project.

HVS consulting team conducted the study on the proposed hotel and convention center. Hans Detlefson relayed the recommendation of a Marriott hotel, a more upscale brand they said was absent in the area. The plan called for 155 guest rooms and a total of 20,000 square feet of conference space.

Ballard*King completed the studies on the three remaining projects. Darin Barr said the consulting team recognized each of the other projects had potential, but ultimately recommended the sports complex because it was the project most likely to have the most significant positive economic effect and had the potential to reach full cost recovery. The committee also recommended the sports complex to the council, after approving the move in a unanimous vote at its Nov. 6 meeting.

Barr offered conservative first-year estimates for the facility's costs and economic effects. A new indoor sports complex featuring six basketball courts that could be used for 12 volleyball courts and a dividable turf field for soccer is expected to bring 4,500 to 5,500 new hotel nights annually.

Operating expenses ranged from $400,000 to $850,000 per year, according to the consultant estimates, while revenue potential was estimated in the $350,000 to $650,000 range. Barr also said the facility was expected to bring in eight to 15 events per year and have a positive financial effect of $400,000 in other areas of the economy when gas, food and other purchases were considered.

Construction cost for the proposed 120,000-square-foot facility is estimated at $19.8 million. Barr said that number could possibly be reduced by looking for other partners to operate the facility, phasing in construction -- he gave the example of first building the basketball and volleyball courts, then later building the turf field -- or renovating an existing structure. The idea of renovating rather than building a new structure was an idea popular among the committee.

Julia Thompson, project facilitator for the committee, said officials with the Show Me Center had expressed support for a new indoor sports complex, since they often are fully booked. They have at times turned to the city's parks and recreation department for assistance, she said.

Barr also pointed out the city's parks department has some experience running tournaments, which will be a key source of revenue for the new facility. Organization is equally as important to the success of a facility as any of its amenities, he said.

Councilwoman Loretta Schneider was the first to voice her favor for the recommendation, but also encouraged staff to consider future possibilities to look into the other projects considered by the committee. Councilman Mark Lanzotti, who served as council liaison to the committee, was also in favor of the recommendation.

"This represents a very important, exciting opportunity for the city of Cape Girardeau," he said. "This could serve as a very big steppingstone for hopefully bigger and better things to come."

Both members of the council, along with councilman Wayne Bowen, commended the consultants for the data provided on each project. The presentation is available at blog.cityofcapegirardeau.org/joint-feasibility-committee-recommendation-presentation.

The council approved the recommendation unanimously, minus the vote of Mayor Harry Rediger, who was absent.

City manager Scott Meyer said the next step in making the sports complex a reality will be for city staff to "drill down" on design work and determining a location and operational costs. He also said the city would keep an eye open for possible partnerships and begin to look at opportunities to book tournaments.

srinehart@semissourian.com

388-3641

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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