The Crook County Foundation unveiled a feasibility study for a proposed sports and entertainment complex Tuesday evening

by: CONTRIBUTED ARTWORK - This artist rendering from the feasibility study shows the layout of the proposed complex featuring multiple sports fields, outdoor amphitheaters, and a lodging facility.

For the past several years, community leaders have been looking for new ways to draw more visitors to the community and generate additional revenue.

On Tuesday evening, the Crook County Foundation unveiled a feasibility study for a proposed sports and entertainment complex that would include multiple baseball/softball fields as well as an outdoor amphitheater, community pool, and lodging facility.

Prineville City Councilor Dean Noyes, a member of the advisory committee formed for the project, said that the idea for a sports complex stemmed from an intent to capitalize on the local climate and interest in athletic and outdoor activities.

“The feasibility study itself was a great step in the right direction,” he said. “Anybody can complain about the rain when they are standing out in it, but it really takes a sense of vision and determination to sit there and say we need to go somewhere. Standing here is not going to get us to where we want to be.”

The study was completed by ECONorthwest, G2 Strategic, and Ankrom Moisan Architects with funding provided by an $80,000 Facebook grant. The document recommended construction of a complex featuring six baseball/softball fields, and two multi-purpose fields for football or soccer, with a central plaza to sell food and beverages. The complex would also include an outdoor amphitheater for live music and entertainment, a proposed recreational outdoor pool, and a "one-of-a kind lodging facility," designed as a motel/dorm hybrid that would allow full teams to stay together in pods while families stay nearby.

The expected cost of the first phase of the facility is $43.7 million, which the study stated could come from three primary sources. The $8.5 million cost to build the lodging portion could come from a privately-financed developer. Another $12.5 million would be financed via alternative sources, subject to approval by the State and agreements with employment-based visa, 5th element (EB5) investors. The remaining $22 million would require public financing through a county-wide voter-approved bond, with a tax rate of about 96.7 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value.

In return for the investment, the study estimates the complex would generate about 700 temporary construction jobs, 204 permanent operations jobs and $15.1 million in total annual impacts from the facility, including $10.3 million in annual direct spending from visitors.

The proposed project generated mixed reviews. Noyes acknowledged that there are a lot of unknowns, and a lot of political apprehension based on the amount of the (necessary) debt. Committee member Jeannie Searcy, who serves as the business manager for the Crook County Parks and Recreation District, called it a tough sell.

At the same time, after reviewing the study, they both feel the idea has enough merit to pursue it further.

“I think if it was built, it would be very well used,” Searcy said, noting that Bend has many fields, but no major sports complex.

Noyes feels the cost of the project is reasonable when compared to the benefits it could generate.

“I think it would be foolish not to pursue the collection of more data to know that we are on the right path,” he said.

Assuming they choose to pursue the project further, project leaders would seek input from the public to determine their support.

“There has got to be education and getting feedback from the community as well,” said Shawn Benson, the committee chair. “If this goes to a next phase, then that will be a big part of it.”

Launching a planning phase for the complex would require local leaders to secure more grant funding or donations, but in spite of that and other future hurdles, committee members believe the idea has enough merit to keep pursuing it.

“Maybe there is something at the end of the road that cuts us off,” Noyes said, “but at least we are taking those steps necessary to vet it and do the research.”

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