By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
The Ellis County Commission might use economic development funds to support a proposed indoor sports facility south of Hays.
Project developers presented their plan and request for tax incentives, in front of a large crowd of supporters Monday to the Ellis County Commission.
According to Justin Herl, project manager with RDH Construction, the facility, which will be located 2 miles south of Hays on 240th Avenue, will be a 210-by-130-foot metal building. It will a 120-by-120-foot turf area that will be completely netted, which will allow for multisport use.
It will also house a full-size basketball court, a weight training facility, an office and a conference room.
The group has requested the county cap the property tax on the facility at $6,150 per year for the first 10 years, but state law prohibits the county from giving the group a tax abatement for the project.
Commissioner Barb Wasinger suggested the county use economic development funds to help offset some of the costs. The county set aside $47,500 that was originally set to go to the Ellis County Economic Development Coalition, but that organization is no longer receiving funding from the county and the city of Hays.
“Very rarely do we have to opportunity where someone’s going to get something done like this in Ellis County,” said Wasinger.
Jeremy Schmeidler, who is helping to lead the project, said, “The facility itself doesn’t have a direct economic impact.”
He said Tuesday that they will not be able to host tournaments at the facility, but they will be able to host camps and showcases for area athletes.
But Schmeidler said the facility will have an indirect impact on the economy. He said this facility will help area athletes who are a part of traveling teams become more competitive at tournaments throughout the state.
“Without competitive traveling teams, there’s nobody that would ever host a tournament,” Schmeidler said. “The economic impact of getting families to Hays for the weekend is significant.”
Schmeidler said the majority of the kids involved with the proposed facility will belong to the traveling teams.
Dustin Washburn is also a member of the group proposing the facility, and he told the commission Monday the Hays Baseball Club has developed a partnership with the baseball clubs in Inman and Great Bend where teams from each city travel to the other city and take part in tournaments they host.
“I know all the traveling teams of friends that I know that travel, across the state, they stay out of town Friday night, Saturday night and come home Sunday, and just the restaurants they eat in (and) the motels they stay at,” said Commissioner Dean Haselhorst. “We’re building a new convention center in Hays here in the very near future. I think it’s a win-win just for Hays alone to start bringing these tournaments here.”
The facility will also be available for individual, family and team memberships as well as for private lessons, although Schmeidler said they do not know what the membership costs will be at this time.
The group has also asked that the county re-evaluate the appraised value of $1,058,220.
At Monday’s commission meeting, Washburn said, for insurance purposes, they estimated the project value at between $700,000 and $1 million.
Commissioner Barb Wasinger said she believes the appraiser’s valuation is similar to what they are going to insure the building for.
The commission will address the issue again at its first meeting in April.
In other business, the commission approved an amendment to the Collective Bargaining Agreement for Ellis County EMS Responder Employees.
They also gave approval to County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes to move forward with a proposed 2019 budget schedule and a budget direction.