Osceola negotiating with sports park developer for new softball complex

Osceola County is negotiating a development agreement with a New York-based firm to build and operate a $70 million softball complex on Kissimmee's tourism corridor.

One site under consideration is a 217-acre parcel at the southwest quadrant of U.S. 192 and the S.R. 429 Beltway. It's just west of the interchange from Margaritaville Resort, which is expected to open in 2018. The land and entitlements has been on the market for $13.75 million for more than a year.

The county's sports facility consultant, Hunden Strategic Partners, identified the parcel as its top choice for a relocated and expanded county softball complex last year. HSP said replacing the five-field softball complex should be the county's highest priority.

In late February, commissioners gave County Manager Don Fisher the go-ahead to negotiate with LifeSports USA President Cary Chevat on the softball complex. The firm plans to build a dozen softball fields, including a championship field, 16 multipurpose long fields (appropriate for soccer, football and lacrosse) and a $40 million-training and retail arcade. 

The project would be built over multiple phases. Fisher said LifeSports has asked the county to contribute $16 million of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds to help buy environmental mitigation credits for the property. 

"They would be required to buy mitigation credits from Osceola County’s mitigation bank," Fisher said. "That makes that project compelling and unique in that regard. It’s also in a good location in the corridor and would be visible to people on the corridor."

Commissioners and staff gave the project the high rankings because it would allow the county to sell the existing softball complex and reimburse the TDT account. County staff estimates the site could sell for $9 million. They also estimate the LifeSports complex would generate 100,000 additional room nights per year, meaning the project could repay the TDT fund in less than five years.

The agreement also could save the county $1.3 million a year in operating costs for the softball complex.

"Being able to sell the softball fields – I like that," Commissioner Viviana Janer said during the February workshop. "How can we make that one work?"

On Tuesday, Chevat told GrowthSpotter the W192/S.R. 429 parcel is just one site under consideration for LifeSports' project, and he is actively looking for other sites with fewer environmental challenges.

"We’re going to make this happen because it is a good concept for the county, and it's great economic development," he said.

Paul Hoffman, a broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial, told GrowthSpotter his listing of the 217 acres is generating a great deal of interest. He said the $16 million wetland mitigation cost would apply only if the buyer chose to develop the entire parcel, which isn't realistic. CBC's marketing materials identify the site as 95 upland acres. 

"We have multiple suitors right now," he said. "There's just not any property like this with the location and size we have."

GrowthSpotter reported last year that Miami racing instructor Andy Bardar had targeted the same parcel for a $50 million auto test-track tourist attraction and retail center.

"We're looking for someone to step up with confidence, and to us that means hard money," Hoffman said.

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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