When costs for a proposed new sports complex near the County Line Industrial Park surpassed $1 million, rather than chalking the project up as a loss after dedicating nearly three years to it, Parsons Recreation Commission Executive Director Gary Crissman sought solutions.
The complex was to be built on 23 acres donated by the city of Parsons in the industrial park just north of a pond on the west side of Giefer Drive. The city of Parsons committed a match of $250,000 in the property and in-kind work.
Former Parsons High School alum and NFL quarterback Shaun Hill pledged $250,000 through his charitable foundation for the sports complex that would include two multi-use fields and a soccer field. The complex would also include a parking lot, a building for storage, concessions and restrooms, fencing and bleachers. Eventually lights and a scoreboard would be added.
The volume of dirt that would have been needed to make the project feasible made it cost prohibitive. Crissman and Hill have investigated multiple sites and in the end were drawn to working with USD 503 to build the complex on its land.
Crissman appeared in person and Hill through a video call with the USD 503 Board of Education Thursday evening to propose that land to the south and east of Parsons High School, and northeast of Guthridge, be used for the complex, though on a smaller scale. He asked those present to look at finding a way to make it work, rather than looking for reasons to oppose it.
Area one would be 100 yards by 60 yards and area two 70 yards by 40 yards. USD 503 and PRC already use the space for some athletics, though they are not perfectly level nor do they drain well.
Were the fields to be built, additional activities could be hosted, including Kansas State High School Activities Association soccer, KSHSAA football, PRC flag football (multiple games at once), PRC youth soccer (multiple games at once), lacrosse, PRC coed adult soccer (multiple games at once), PRC men’s flag football, rugby, tournament/jamboree usage (multiple games at once), varsity sports practice and band practice.
Buffer zones are figured into the areas.
Infrastructure needs, such as the water, electric and sewer lines and tie-ins, are to be completed by the city of Parsons as in-kind donation work.
Crissman talked about the irrigation system specs and noted the company to be used has already been chosen by Hill and a down payment made.
A 4-foot chain link fence would be erected around a portion of the property to protect it and allow for gate fees to be collected to help cover maintenance or improvement costs in the future.
“We just want to improve the aesthetics and playability of these areas when it’s all said and done,” Crissman said.
The site’s grade has been checked and the project would work there given the good condition of the area.
Crissman said the district could save money on equipment it intended to purchase for its soccer program because the costs for many of these items are built into PRC’s plans.
Field maintenance can be supported by PRC through staff time, equipment usage, fertilizer, overseeding and maintaining the fields themselves.
“It’s my belief in all actuality that in the end should we come to an agreement and this plan come to fruition Mr. Ramsey and I would be working together on whatever a maintenance plan would look like and whoever would be maintaining it on a given month. Whatever is convenient for you guys,” Crissman said. “Just so you know that is something we plan to do and have the ability to do. We don’t want to take over the area, but more compliment James and his crew as we can and as needed to upkeep the area.”
As for costs, all expenses of the plan are covered through a donation from Hill, field amendment work being done through an in-kind donation from LaForge and Budd, and in-kind donations from the city of Parsons.
Crissman said it is PRC’s desire that the district retain ownership of the property. Board member Jeff Quirin said he would like for the district to investigate the benefits between the district maintaining the property versus leasing it to the PRC for $1 a year.
The 503 board voiced an interest in looking into the project and putting it to a vote at its July 1 meeting.
“Obviously this thing started on a completely different site, so as much as we could we tried to plug and play with the things we had from that site over to USD 503 site,” Hill said. “All this can be open for discussion as far as the lay out goes and things like that. As far as the other site, it just wasn’t going to work. We were going to spend more money than the ground was even worth. It was just unusable unfortunately.”
Hill noted the addition of the USD 503 high school soccer program created a need for space between soccer and football.
“Hopefully this can alleviate some of those issues as well,” Hill said. “Originally that site wasn’t really on my radar until I learned of the soccer program. Then it made a lot of sense to me. This might be something that is beneficial for everybody. … We’ve put a few years into this thing so far and I understand it is the first time some of you are hearing about it, so there are a lot of details to go through. We just need to know, hey, is this worth talking some more about with you guys and exploring or do we need to go shopping for some ground somewhere else. I’m committed to it. I think the area could really use something like this.”
The complex on the district’s property would allow for parents to remain in one location as their children play rather than trying to run from one place to another.
Hill said they want to see restrooms and concessions added, but those are not included in their phase 1 plans.
Board member Lou Martino said that is something the board needed to consider as a priority given the number of children who would be using the fields. Bathrooms and concessions are something the board has building before near the football field/track.
“For what it’s worth, Pat LaForge did have Terry Hardman draw up a mock concession stand/equipment building, restroom area that is 25-foot by 100-foot and included a covered patio breezeway area, insulated storage, walk through door and garage door … that will fit in that area, for a pretty affordable price,” Crissman told the board.
Minus in-kind donations, Hill said they estimated the cost of the project to be about $198,000. Crissman said the way the project is laid out, it will cost about $14,000 a year in administration and personnel costs to maintain the fields.
Hill will return to Parsons July 10 and walk the area to discuss plans with the facilities improvement team.
Board member Roger Duroni said he wants to ensure whatever the plans are that the district is being a good neighbor to people living around the school.
Martino said what the district needs to do is give the PRC and Hill the green light to begin establishing plans.
Board member David Ray said it already makes sense. The district is already committed to the new soccer program. There is already flag football and kids soccer being played at the site, so really it is just an extension of what is already going on. The complex idea is just upgrading it.
Everyone agrees the economic impact on Parsons could be great, too, from sales tax revenues if tournaments and jamborees are scheduled, and Quirin said he is hopeful that might be enough to entice the city to donate the water needed for maintaining the fields.
Bringing people into the community is a win, Quirin said. It looks like a good project fitting USD 503’s and the community’s needs in the future.
“I’m guardedly optimistic as I sit at the table tonight,” Quirin said.
“It would appear to me we have a positive outlook on this,” board member Mike Kastle said. “…Hopefully we can have this done by the summer of 2021.”