SHEBOYGAN – A local soccer organization hit a roadblock in the planning phase of an over $7 million sports complex when the Redevelopment Authority (RDA) put funding for consultation on hold at its July 17 meeting.
In May 2018, youth soccer nonprofit Lakeshore United FC (LUFC) received permission from the Common Council to begin fundraising for the $7.5 million Butzen Sports Complex. It is planned to be built on the former Butzen Farm property along South Business Drive, which has been vacant for several years.
Spanning over 40 acres, the complex would contain the following:
16 sports fields catering toward soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, ultimate frisbee and golf instruction
An inflatable dome for winter programming
5 turf fields that provide weather-resistant conditions and include illuminated fields for extended playing time
7 paved parking lots
LUFC attests that a sports complex would cater to high demand, as according to the organization’s 56-page project proposal prepared by development advisor SB Friedman, LUFC had over 1,300 children participating in its soccer program alone in 2018.
In 2019, two sports consultants were solicited for a peer review of the sports complex: Johnson Consulting and CSL International. Johnson set the price for its service at $7,500, while CSL asked for $15,000. Additionally, representatives of both firms recommended and offered to perform a market and feasibility analysis, which neither they nor the RDA were aware of the existence of. For this separate service, Johnson asked for $25,000 and CSL asked for $35,000.
“They would build the ‘business plan’ to see if this makes sense,” Planning & Development director Chad Pelishek said of the consulting firms. “They felt that’s what’s missing out of the proposal that was submitted to us.”
After reviewing each consultant’s proposal, several RDA members voiced their preference for Johnson Consulting. However, member David Gass expressed wariness at pushing the project forward in any form.
“I just feel weird that we’re the starting point for this,” Gass said. “We’re never the starting point for a major city capital expansion. I kind of feel like–Is some of this being done to avoid making the initial major policy decisions as to whether we even want to try this when you look at all the other things the city should be doing or needs to be doing?”
Amy Wilson of tourism organization Visit Sheboygan spoke of the impact the complex would have on Sheboygan County’s major hotels and resorts, especially during the peak occupancy season of summer. According to Wilson, teams in certain sports such as soccer typically want to pay lower rates while putting a heavy load on employees, and as such, several of the county’s resorts would simply not allow teams to stay during peak season.
RDA Chairperson Roberta Peneski-Flicky stated that other options should be explored before providing funding for studies or the project itself. She noted that the RDA is historically a gap-funding organization. “This has already jumped that boundary for us,” she said of the sports complex discussion.
Mayor Mike Vandersteen asked LUFC what donation commitments the organization has received for the project thus far of the $7.5 million needed. He did not receive a direct answer.
“It’s difficult to raise this kind of money,” Vandersteen said. “Some of the people that you’ll have to see are very bright people, and they’re going to rip this up like you’ve never seen before and challenge you with questions for your ongoing maintenance. Guys will pay capital. They love to do it, but if they don’t think you can survive, they won’t give you the money because they don’t want to give something that will just go to waste.”
The RDA voted to put action on the consultation proposals on hold. Furthermore, the RDA took no action on debt financing for the Butzen Sports Complex.