There’s been talk for years now of local government building a multi-sport complex somewhere in Lee County. The ability to hold baseball or soccer tournaments and host out of town teams and their families, the argument goes, would provide an economic boon to Lee County, as those families would be likely to spend money here, whether it’s on a hotel room, at restaurants, visiting our refurbished downtown, or more.
And while the discussion between Sanford and Lee County officials has been ongoing for more than three years – a recent Sanford Herald story (subscription required) indicates that “the project stalled after the city was unable to find a suitable location for the complex” – there’s now a movement afoot to put a bond before Lee County voters in the 2020 election to fund the project, which is expected to cost around $25 million.
An artist’s rendering of the project shows 10 rectangle shaped fields, presumably for football or soccer, with eight of those being natural grass and two of them synthetic. Also included are five baseball diamonds, a walking trail, and areas for disc golf, horseshoes, and volleyball.
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann has called the project “the last big item” of the “Open for Business” agenda on which he first ran for office in 2013, and Amy Dalrymple, chairwoman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, said in the same Herald story that due to a land donation from a private citizen, the county “may now be in a position to pick the project back up.”
According to that story, “one of the conditions of the donation is that the resident would retain about eight acres of the land for construction of a hotel and other commercial properties,” meaning that what is currently a fairly quiet stretch of Broadway Road could soon become relatively bustling.
A 2015 study commissioned to look at the viability of such a project shows attitudes in Sanford and Lee County largely positive about a multi-field sports complex. 98 percent of people with children playing youth sports strongly or somewhat agreed that recreation played a large role in economic development, and 93 percent of the general public felt the same way. The study also found that Lee Countians have a fairly low perception of current playing facilities, particularly with regard to soccer. Further, it estimated an annual $2 million in recurring economic activity if a sports complex is built.
It’s undeniable that such a sports complex would be a huge, and likely welcome development any part of Lee County. We hope to see the announcement of a bond referendum on the 2020 ballot soon, and that the people of Lee County will ultimately vote for what they’ve been saying they want for years now.