Osceola commits $20M of tourist tax funding for new W192 sports complex

Osceola County is teaming up with a private developer to build a $20 million sports complex on one of the largest undeveloped sites along the W192 tourism corridor.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on a Development Agreement with LifeSports USA to build and operate a 60-acre sports complex at the southwest quadrant of W192 and the S.R. 429 interchange. The complex would anchor a 23-acre town center on W192 with up to 81,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 128-room hotel, and a 300-unit apartment complex. 

LifeSports President Cary Chevat was negotiating to buy the 217-acre parcel last year for the sports complex, but those plans were interrupted when another developer put it under contract with plans to build the proposed Orlando Motorsports Park

Chevat resumed negotiations with the seller after the motorsports project fell apart in October amid fierce opposition from surrounding neighborhoods. 

The sports complex would be constructed in two phases on 60 acres south of the town center. Phase 1 would include at least eight multipurpose long fields which could be converted to regulation-size softball fields, along with parking and maintenance facilities. 

When it's complete, the county will buy the facility for $10 million -- using Tourist Development Tax funds -- and lease it back to LifeSports for 20 years. The rent would equal 20 percent of parking revenues for the complex. The lease is also on the commissioners' consent agenda Monday.

Community Development Director Dave Tomek told GrowthSpotter the first phase is slated to open Oct. 1, 2019. 

"They’re doing a softball complex of at least eight fields – we’re pushing to get 10," Tomek said on Friday. "One of the fields will have to be a championship field with permanent seating for 750 spectators."

Once the transaction is complete, the county will shut down its five-field softball complex on John Young Parkway and sell the 26-acre site. The proceeds of that sale would go back into the TDT fund. 

The second phase includes another eight long fields, suitable for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, field hockey and football. All of the fields will have LED lighting, and can be natural or artificial turf. 

When those fields are completed, the county will then pay another $10 million from its TDT funds for the asset under a similar lease-back arrangement with the developer. 

LifeSports also will build an entry plaza and  30,000- to 60,000-square-foot clubhouse with an attached outdoor dining area and athletes village. The contract allows for those assets to be constructed either in Phase 1 or Phase 2, and they would be excluded from the sale to the county. 

"We're only buying the fields, the parking lots and the maintenance facilities," Tomek said. "They keep everything else."

He said Phase 2 would open in June 2020, and the entire project, including the retail element, would be completed by 2022. LifeSports would have the freedom to set its own parking rates and control on-site advertising, including the sale of naming rights for the stadium. 

The only condition is that teams participating in sporting events at the complex must stay in Osceola County, Tomek said. They could stay in hotels or vacation homes, he said.

"They're right next to Margaritaville, so I could see that being really attractive," Tomek said. 

The county has been looking for a way to move its softball operations to the W192 site since 2016, when a sports facility consultant recommended closing the existing complex. Tomek said shifting the softball operations to LifeSports would result in immediate savings of $1.5 million in annual operating costs.

In addition, county staff has estimated the John Young Parkway site, which is in the desirable Loop submarket, could net at least $9 million in a sale. 

Commissioners first authorized staff to negotiate with LifeSports in February 2017, but the project went into limbo while the motorsports park issue played itself out.

"It's the perfect location because it's so close to Disney," W192 Development Authority Executive Director David Buchheit said. "I'm so excited to see something going on that site, especially after what happened with the Motorsports Park."

The demand for new retail space and apartments on the W192 corridor is at an all-time high, he said. "Their retail should fill up pretty fast," Buchheit said.

LifeSports has hired LandQwest Commercial to market the town center. The conceptual plan shows a 300-unit apartment complex on the southeast corner of the parcel, along Funie Steed Road, consisting of six four-story buildings.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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