Update on Sports Town: Springfield’s newest sports complex near airport will soon be opening some soccer fields

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - While experiencing the same kind of supply-chain construction problems as everyone else, the developers of a new sports complex near the Springfield-Branson National Airport are still committed to their $70 million project that also includes a future commercial retail addition.

And the good news is they already have several natural grass and artificial turf soccer fields in place along with lights, parking lots, storm drainage, a paved road, and restrooms.

“We’ll hopefully have balls kicking in a couple of weeks on the soccer fields,” said co-owner Stan Liedel as he updated the project during a Springfield City Council luncheon at the airport board room.

After the luncheon council members went to the facility to see the progress on what is now known as the “Betty and Bobby Allison Sports Town”, named for the well-known supporters of many area youth sports programs who provided five million dollars for the fields and signage at the new sports complex.

At first, the fields will be used by Sporting Springfield, a youth soccer program.

But by next spring the plan is to have leagues and events in full swing at the complex.

When completed there will be eight natural grass fields, and the Tulsa-based owners decided to increase the number of artificial turf fields from one-to-four even though it meant quite an increase in costs. Grass fields normally run about $30,000 while turf fields cost half a million dollars.

But with the new complex’s expected $16 million tourism impact, the decision to add more turf fields was made because of its attractiveness to national and regional tournament organizations.

“This is a great complex and very professionally done,” said Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tracy Kimberlin. “It will mean that we’ll eventually be able to host more and bigger tournaments that we haven’t been able to go after before. Turf allows you to get more games in during inclement weather and all the lights will allow night play. That’s what tournament organizers are looking for.”

Meanwhile, the next phase of construction is expected to start around February or March with the building of a 94,000 square-foot indoor complex that will have two indoor soccer fields and four basketball courts that convert into eight volleyball courts.

“We’ll also be able to accommodate conventions or whatever we need to do,” said Liedel. “The space is going to be really multi-purpose.”

Liedel also told the council that the building construction has had some setbacks that have slowed the timeline.

“We encountered a bunch of rock when we started digging on the job site,” he said. “It has actually been a pain.”

And there’s also been around $4 million in overruns because of the same supply-chain issues that have plagued society-as-a-whole since the pandemic arrived.

“The issue has been just getting building materials,” explained co-owner Rob Phillips. “Not to mention that the steel costs and the building costs have gone up well over three hundred percent in the last two years.”

Right now a restroom is the only permanent building on the complex. But besides the $24 million sports complex, an area next to the highway will someday be home to a $45 million commercial retail complex that includes two hotels, retail space, a convenience store, and restaurants.

Phillips said he hopes to be turning dirt on the commercial development in 2022 and that some well-known local investors have shown interest.

“Mr. Tim O’Reilly has mentioned that he is on board for one of the sites,” Phillips said. “We haven’t worked out all the details yet but he’s given us a letter of intent for the site and he’d very much like to be here.”

And despite all the pandemic-related construction problems slowing things down, Phillips reiterated the Tulsa-based owners are going to see the project through no matter what the obstacles.

“We’re committed to Springfield,” he said. “We’re really excited to bring this level of a sports complex here. In addition, it’s really going to open up the west side of Springfield which we think has been really under-served and underutilized for many, many years.”

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