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JCPRD proceeding with Softball Complex Acquisition
POSTED: 02/27/2002
Johnson County Park and Recreation District officials anticipate taking over operation of the Johnson County Girls Athletic Association Complex, 20200 Johnson Drive, by the second week of March.

District Board members cleared the way for this by voting unanimously during their Feb. 20 meeting to adopt a resolution authorizing the sale of bonds, which would fund the lease/acquisition of the facility for up to two years.

In response to a citizen's question, Vice Chair Mark Stingley emphasized during Wednesday's meeting that he does not regard this action as a "bailout" of the Johnson County Girls Athletic Association.

"This is buying an asset that is going to provide service to the county," Stingley said.

The bonds for the acquisition would actually be issued by the nonprofit Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County, which passed a similar resolution authorizing the bonds during a meeting on Feb. 13. The District would enter a lease/management agreement with the Foundation to operate the complex.

Under a plan between Gold Bank and the JCPRD, the District would pay only interest and not retire any of the facility's debt for up to two years. This would provide time to put before voters a proposal as part of the Master Action Plan 2020 to address permanent funding.

MAP 2020 identifies four regionally-located recreation centers, including one in northwest Johnson County. If ultimately approved by voters, the softball complex would take the place of one of these centers and would replace the Tomahawk Sports Dome when it comes up for replacement in 2005.

If not approved by voters, this arrangement would be "collapsible," meaning the District could walk away without obligation or penalty anytime after the first year if so desired.

Meadors said the District will run the entire complex, rather than leasing the fields back to the JCGAA, as was earlier suggested. The director said this was reinforced when bond counsel reported on the many difficulties which could be caused by limitations of tax-exempt bonds that would be encountered if it were to be leased to an exclusive outside user. He added that members of the JCGAA Board will likely continue to be involved in an advisory capacity.

Anticipation of the Park District's involvement has already had a positive impact on the softball complex, Meadors said. During a JCGAA manager's meeting in late January, attended by the JCPRD Director and other District staff, more teams than last year - including some that had previously left the JCGAA facility.

"The word's already out that if this goes through we'll be involved," he said.

Meadors called the District Board's unanimous action "a vote of confidence in the staff as much as it was a show of their desire to acquire the facility. The Board has shown great support of the staff's ability to provide the types of programs that are currently being offered there and have risen to the challenge of taking on new facilities in the past."

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