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Commissioners considering Indoor sports complex | News

Commissioners considering Indoor sports complex | News

When Owensboro city commissioners discussed projects on the city’s horizon Tuesday evening, Mayor Tom Watson raised the possibility of the city creating an indoor sports complex.

Commissioners said Wednesday that the idea is worth exploring, with some saying the time is right financially to consider such a project. But questions would have to be answered first, and there are competing needs, such as a better senior citizens center, commissioners said.

Watson said there is a need for a sports complex, but that a senior center project should be a priority.

“I told the city manager, I want to get the senior center moving in the right direction before we do other things,” Watson said.

The discussion of a senior center project and indoor sports complex arose when commissioners were talking about plans to construct a transient boat ramp downtown. The estimated cost of the dock is $6 million.

The city applied for a federal $1.5 million Boating Infrastructure Grant for the dock, but did not receive the funds. Commissioners discussed going ahead with drawing up project documents now, which would mean officials could solicit for contractors in July.

Tuesday evening, Watson told City Manager Nate Pagan that he was not in favor of the dock project unless the city also did something toward a senior center and an indoor sports facility. Pagan said he would add those projects to the city’s projects lists if commissioners want to pursue them.

Watson said Wednesday that a sports complex would have more impact than a downtown boat dock.

A dock “is going to affect hundreds of people,” Watson said, while an indoor sports facility could affect thousands of people all year long.

Commissioner Jeff Sanford said Wednesday that the city staff would study the sports facility concept to see if it’s viable.

“It would be something for tournaments, basketball, hockey, soccer,” Sanford said. Other sports complexes have held hockey tournaments.

“You could do archery or cheerleading,” Sanford said.

Other cities have had success drawing visitors to indoor sports tournaments, he said. During the week, a local facility could host youth sports.

The city’s revenues have exceeded expectations this year, while expenses are lower than anticipated.

“Now our financials look good,” he said. “While we can, we need to do something.”

Commissioner Bob Glenn said officials would first have to determine if there is a need for an indoor facility that could hold tournaments.

“At one point, Paducah had a pretty good-sized facility,” but that complex is now closed, Glenn said. Officials would have to determine, “is there a market?”

The city should also look for a financial partner if officials decide pursue a sports facility, he said.

Regarding tournaments, Glenn said the city does have space to host sports tournaments at the convention center, which has a sports floor that can be used for multiple events.

Glenn said officials would have to consider what would happen to such a facility in a long-term shutdown, such as during the COVID pandemic, and whether traveling sports tournaments, which come with hotel and food costs, are going to continue to attract participants.

Glenn said he supports addressing the senior center.

“There’s absolutely no doubt we need to do something about the senior center,” Glenn said. “The senior center comes before the sportsplex.

“At this stage, the whole thing with the senior center is aspirational.”

Glenn said there’s no plan or blueprint for a new senior center and that “we should be embarrassed by the condition of the senior center.”

Regarding a sports complex, Watson said “the main issue is, I’m trying to figure out who is going to run it.”

For example, the facility could be under the parks department, Watson said.

Officials would also have to determine whether to build a new facility or remodel an existing facility, Watson said.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Maglinger said officials want to address the senior center.

“It would be a whole new one,” Maglinger said. “I don’t think anyone is interested in (remodeling) the old one.

“I think it’s something we are looking into, and we are going to continue that.”

As for a sports complex, Maglinger said, “I’m in favor of it, if there’s a need.”

Commissioner Mark Castlen said the of a sports complex, “we are discussing it and are trying to, No. 1, find a location and, if we could, try to find a partner.

“I really think it would benefit the community, especially with us being known as a sports town.”

Talk of a senior center is “in the planning stages,” Castlen said.

“Where the senior center is now, I’ve been through it, and it’s very disappointing,” he said. “They definitely need to move out of that building.

“You could throw millions (of dollars) at that place, and it would still be an old, dilapidated building.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected], Twitter: @JamesMayse