Plan: Community center, stadium, track at MCC - East Valley Tribune: News

Plan: Community center, stadium, track at MCC

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Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 7:00 pm | Updated: 1:37 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Mesa school district is spearheading a proposal to create a 5,000- to 6,000-seat community events center and a 15,000- to 20,000-seat stadium and track on the Mesa Community College campus.

The idea has been in the making for 20 years, but steps to make it a reality have moved fast-forward in the last six months, Steve Hogen, director of athletics for the Mesa Unified School District, told the district's governing board Tuesday evening.

The district's leaders will present the proposal - along with a letter of support - to the Mesa City Council Dec. 14, Hogen said.

The arena could be the first phase of a shared athletic facilities center on the MCC campus, 1833 W. Southern Ave. The proposal also includes an aquatics center as an optional addition.

With these types of facilities, Mesa could play host to state and regional high school sports championships and Western Athletic Conference tournaments.

Hogen pointed to the community's new pool at Kino Junior High School, which is already scheduled to play host to national masters swimming and synchronized swimming events in 2011. Both events could bring in 1,500 to 2,000 out-of-state guests.

"Our track record has shown it can be done," he said. "It can be done in Mesa."

Hogen said the community college and surrounding Fiesta district businesses, including Westcor - which owns Fiesta Mall - and Banner Desert Medical Center, are in favor of the plans.

Superintendent Mike Cowan said it is win-win for Mesa.

"We see this as a valuable resource to our community," he said.

Hogen said it could provide a much-needed boost for the Fiesta district.

"A lot of great resources tell us this is a good idea," Hogen said.

The "big elephant" in all the planning is how to fund such an endeavor, Hogen said, adding each of the facilities could cost $50 million.

There could be several funding scenarios - federal stimulus dollars, private donors, voter-approved bond funds, Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars - because it would also provide a large-scale staging area for community disasters.

Mesa is being asked to create a community facilities district in the area that would fund construction through some sort of tax, said Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, whose district includes the area. But the schools haven't asked Mesa for any direct financial assistance, he said.

The school district is not putting money into the proposal, Hogen said.

"We have not committed any funding, any land to this. We've created the concept," he said.

Kavanaugh pointed out that the sports facilities could raise a lot of tax revenue with out-of-town visitors who spend money on hotel rooms, food, rental cars and at stores in the area.

"It would be a major shot in the arm because the three facilities they're talking about can create a big concentration of visitors, both during the day and in the evening," Kavanaugh said.

City officials say they are aware of the idea but haven't been part of the discussion or planning, City Manager Chris Brady said. He and Mayor Scott Smith expect to get a presentation from school officials soon to see what it includes and what may be asked of the city. The issue could go on to the full City Council as early as December, Brady said.

"There's a lot of preliminary conversation going on, and the city has not weighed in on this at all," Brady said.

The community college and the school district signed a "memo of understanding" in 2007 to explore creation of the shared facility.

Hogen said an economic study has already been completed and he has a blueprint in mind to put before the city. He said the new community events center could be a mirror of the Tim Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. That facility hosts minor league hockey, figure skating, theater productions, basketball, boxing, concerts and more, according to its Web site.

Tribune writer Garin Groff contributed to this report.

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