CRESTVIEW — A sports complex's proposed site appears inadequate and might generate a $400,000 annual loss, but that doesn't mean death to the project.
The city still is researching feasibility of such a facility, said Council President Ben Iannucci III, who raised the concept of a sports complex — built and operated by a sports management company at no expense to Crestview taxpayers — early last year.
In addition to providing sports and recreational opportunities for locals, the complex would attract out-of-town traveling sports tournaments, he said.
He reported on recent communication with the Institute of Retired Professionals, tasked with conducting a feasibility study, at the Jan. 28 council meeting. Among preliminary findings, the group questioned the suggested location, an 18-acre city-owned tract of land behind the Brookmeade Drive public safety building.
"Their determination is it may not be big enough for what we're proposing," Iannucci said.
The group's early estimates indicate the facility would cost between $1 and $3 million.
"There are ways to get this paid for that won't come out of the taxpayers' pockets," Iannucci said.
The retired professionals estimated the complex itself had the potential to lose up to $400,000 a year, but it would generate revenues between $5 and $10 million annually for the city's hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurants and service providers.
The north county could use a sports complex, Councilman Charles Baugh Jr. said.
"We don't have enough recreational opportunities for our youth," he said. "Roughly, there's 40,000 people living in this area, and this is the county seat, so maybe we can get some partnership from the county to make this happen."
The project has drawn support from the county Economic Development Council.
"You've heard before that this would be an excellent development for the city and would contribute greatly to the quality of life in the area," EDC interim President Kay Rasmussen said.
RESTORE Act money — from BP's fines for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — might apply to the sports complex project, Rasmussen said.
The institute will meet next week and soon will deliver a formal report on its findings and recommendations, Iannucci said.
Former Okaloosa County Tourism Development Council Director Mark Bellinger addressed the city council and the Community Redevelopment Agency in the spring of 2012 to advise on funding the project with a Crestview tourism development tax, or "bed tax," levied on guests at area hotels.
A sports complex that attracted more visitors to the community would be a permissible use of the tax, Bellinger said.
"The bed tax is a very strong option for you in the future if you decide to go down that road as a funding source for this type of development," Rasmussen said.
While researching the concept, the institute requested copies of a proposal for a combined community arts and sports facility presented to the agency by Rae Schwartz, representing Friends of the Arts and the Okaloosa Arts Alliance's Crestview area committee.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.