Intersport pitches plan to Elkhorn leaders

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Feb. 9, 2007, 1:14 p.m.)

Like a vendor selling peanuts or hot dogs, officials from Intersport are trying to sell city and county officials and the public on their plan for a multi-sport facility.

At a joint meeting with the Elkhorn City Council and planning commission Thursday, Intersport representatives touted the pros they see to such a facility on the outskirts of Elkhorn. City officials grilled them about the below-market-value purchase price of the site and "what's in it" for Elkhorn residents.

Here's a look at Intersport's proposal, what residents think and what's next.

Intersport's promises
-- Over at least five years, build a multi-sport complex on 250 acres of county-owned land off County NN east of downtown Elkhorn.

-- Initially have 10 youth baseball diamonds, 25 player dorms, a cafeteria, gift shops and other amenities for the players, coaches and spectators.

-- Eventually expand the facility to include more dorms and baseball diamonds and add soccer fields and indoor gymnasiums for basketball and volleyball courts.

-- Invest $7 million into the community with Phase 1.

-- Deliver $6.3 million annually back to the community through economic impacts from players, coaches and families attending the park.

-- Hold 24-team, six-day tournaments for 11 to 12 weeks each summer. Each team would have 13 players ages 9-12 and three coaches.

-- Entertain about 900 spectators per week.

-- Hold games between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. culminating in a televised championship game at week's end.

-- Bring people into the county from around the United States and potentially from other countries where baseball is popular.

-- Employ about 40 seasonal and five year-round employees during initial phases. Potential candidates could range from area coaches and teachers to college students. Add more workers as operation grows.

Lease-to-buy land contract
-- Intersport intends to lease 190 acres from the county in Phase 1 for $180 per acre per year.

-- Rent would escalate with the Consumer Price Index.

-- The first five years of rent could be credited toward purchase costs. Further payments could not be credited.

-- Purchase price of the land is $3,000 per acre.

-- Land could not be purchased and Intersport could not add onto the facility until Phase 1 construction is complete and Intersport demonstrates it has brought $6.3 million into the area through economic impacts.

-- An independent company will determine the economic impact caused by Intersport's presence.

-- The lease-to-buy terms for Phase 2 and beyond are similar in costs: $180 per acre per year (55 acres) and purchase cost of $3,000 per acre.

-- Intersport would pay property taxes on the estimated $2.5 million worth of improvements made to the land while it is renting from the county. It would pay full property taxes if it buys the land.

-- Walworth County would receive a $5 surcharge for each player who attends the camp as a reimbursement for potentially selling the land at well below market value.

Plan by the numbers
-- Phase 1 rent: $35,100 annually.

-- Phase 1 sale price: $585,000.

-- Phase 2 rent: 9,900 annually.

-- Phase 2 sale price: $165,000.

-- Total sale price for 250 acres: $775,000.

-- Total rent as baseball complex (if the land is not sold): $45,000 annually.

-- Current rent paid to county while leased as farm field: $35,500 annually.

-- Surcharge reimbursement to county: $18,720, assuming 13 players per team, 24 teams, 12 weeks per year and a $5 surcharge per player.

-- Price paid by the county in 2000 to purchase 77 acres of the land: $650,000, or $8,442 per acre.

-- Total sale price of 250 acres at that per-acre price: $2,110,500.

-- Difference in proposed sale price and 2000 purchase cost: $1.36 million.

What people are saying
"Once (the county) sells that land, it's forever. Once it's gone, it's gone. They're selling much more than is needed (by Intersport)."-Graham Olson, Elkhorn.

"If the land is sold (to Intersport) at that price, why aren't other people in the community given the opportunity to buy it at that price?"-Bonnie Hoover, Delavan.

"This is what they need in this town. It's been dead. Everything else is kicked to Delavan or Lake Geneva. (City and county elected officials) are going to put this through the wringer and make them jump through every hoop to make sure this is positive."-Gary Wallem, Elkhorn.

"I'm in favor of more good-paying jobs, not more seasonal jobs."-Alderman Gary Payson Sr., in a letter to the plan commission.

"It's designed to be beautiful in that it's green, lush and landscaped. It looks great so that it's a great experience for young people and their families. It will bring a lot of people from around the country to this great city and this great county."-Charles Besser, president of Intersport.

"These guys are bringing in tons of tourism dollars, and they are not adding kids to the schools. People will come, spend big money and take themselves and their problems home with them."-Shane Crawford, Walworth County director of public works.

What's next
The Elkhorn Plan Commission and City Council looked at the concept plans Thursday. No decision was made.
The Walworth County Board of Supervisors needs to approve the lease-to-buy agreement before the proposal can go any further. That won't come to the board until at least March.
Walworth County needs to ask for zoning changes from the city of Elkhorn. City officials would then need to approve a rezone of the property, after going through all appropriate public hearings, before ground could ever be broken.
"This is subject to the same sorts of rigors, if you will, that any development goes through," City Administrator Sam Tapson said.
Intersport will need to have traffic impact analysis done, address stormwater retention issues and adhere to developer's agreements


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