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Copyright 2014 The Arizona Daily Star
Pima County is on the verge of buying 167 acres of land near the Kino Sports Complex, with the intention of expanding it to create a large-scale regional soccer facility.
The county is looking to purchase the property from the developer, Stardust-Reif, for $8.75 million, which would include a down payment of $1.75 million and five subsequent payments, according to a memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
The land is bordered by East Benson Highway, South Kino Parkway, East Irvington Road and Interstate 10.
Although there are no concrete plans yet, county officials say 19 soccer fields, along with stadium seating for 5,000 to 7,000 fans, can be developed on the property.
That would bring the total number of soccer fields at the Kino Sports Complex to 28 when the complex's existing fields are included.
County officials say the number of fields would be more than what's offered at similar complexes in the Phoenix area.
Officials are working with the developer to draft a purchase agreement and will seek the county Board of Supervisors' approval at the June 17 meeting.
The board also will have to authorize an appropriation for the down payment in the next fiscal year's proposed budget, which begins next month, because the money will have to come from the general fund, Huckelberry said.
That means the county will have to pull money together from different portions of the proposed $1.18 billion budget, which is scheduled to be adopted at the meeting.
The subsequent payments for the property could come from money allocated in the November 2015 bond election.
The county already has a land-acquisition component for park facilities in the proposed bond package, Huckelberry said.
However, if voters rejected the measure, taxpayers still would pay for the land because the county would use money from its general fund.
Officials say it's worth the risk, as the facility could become the premier soccer complex in Tucson and possibly the state.
"This acquisition is likely the most important strategic sports acquisition made by the county in decades," Huckelberry said in the memo.
In a separate interview, Huckelberry referred to the potential purchase of the land as a "game-changer."
"There is a lot of value in this," he said.
Huckelberry noted the land's proximity to the Kino Sports Complex, saying employees at the complex could also be used at the expanded site.
"The infrastructure for maintaining a new sports complex already exists," he said. "It's not like you're starting over."
The current property owner has already paid for full engineering plans and analyses, which could be used by the county, he said.
Soccer has become a popular topic at some of the board meetings within the last few months, as the supervisors and county officials have discussed the addition of more soccer fields at Rillito Park Horse Racetrack on the north side.
Coaches and other supporters have spoken at those meetings, saying there is a huge demand for more fields, which would allow the region to host more tournaments and boost the economy.
County officials have looked at potential sites throughout the years, including the one they're poised to buy.
The county previously approached Stardust in 2012, but the company wanted to keep the property, which was slated for residential development.
Supervisor Ramon Valadez asked county officials to inquire about the land again after a board meeting a few months ago where the supervisors discussed Rillito Park Horse Racetrack.
"I literally had the idea while listening to the discussion," Valadez said. "We're really close, closer today than we've ever been."
Valadez first noticed the property, which is in his district, a few years ago, when he lived in the area.
He viewed it as an ideal location because of how close it is to the Tucson International Airport, Interstate 10 and other major streets.
"Think of the possibilities of what that means to our community, what we can do for kids, young people, adult leagues," he said. "Tournaments that didn't even look at Tucson will not only look at Tucson, but say, 'Why would we go anywhere else in Arizona?' "