Mobile County Commission President Connie Hudson abruptly disclosed a preliminary estimate of the proposed soccer complex slated for the I-10/I-65 corridor during a conference meeting today and also mentioned seeking funding for it through the RESTORE Act.
During the meeting, Hudson said a figure of $40 million was mentioned in passing, but that figure was a “very much a ballpark estimate” that includes 10 soccer fields, a water park and a 25,000-square-foot building for an indoor pool.
Over the summer, the commission agreed to an $18,000 engineering contract with Neel-Schafer Inc. to develop a master plan and make a budget for the project, which has been led by the county’s former assistant engineer John Murphy.
Hudson said until the final figures from that report are in, “the numbers are too preliminary” to see what each proposed section of the complex might cost individually.
“Until we can get some additional support for the project, it will have to be divided up in a pay-as-you-go fashion,” she said. “We can only do what we’ve got the money in place to do.”
Though Hudson did say a partnership with the private sector is still on the table, one source the commission is looking at are the civil penalties from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill outlined in the RESTORE Act of 2012.
It’s one of several projects the county has outlined in what it’s calling “the oil spill wish list,” all of which will be submitted for possible RESTORE Act funding.
“This is an economic development project and that’s how we view this,” Hudson said. “That’s how it would fit into a RESTORE Act category.”
The Mobile County Commission has one of eight seats on the Alabama Gulf Coastal Recovery Council (AGCRC), which has full decision over Alabama’s “direct component” funds in the RESTORE Act — a fund that according to AGCRC’s Director Eliska Morgan contains around $44 million today and is expected to substantially grow when BP settles its civil case.
The members of the council, including Hudson, will be able to propose projects from those submitted through RESTORE Act portals set up by Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
When asked about potential conflicts of interest on the council in September, AGCRC Vice Chairman Jimmy Lyons said the council “hasn’t yet decided how to bring projects up for consideration.”
Hudson said the commission is likely to approve a request from the county’s engineering department to submit the project to the AGCRC for consideration during its Oct. 13 meeting.
“What we’re trying to do here is top-quality, which means you have soccer fields with underground drainage. It means you have lighted fields. It means you have lot of things,” she said. “Even if we have to break it into small phases, we want a quality product.”
However, District 3 Commission Jerry Carl, who had originally proposed an option for a soccer complex in his district,voiced his opposition to such an expensive project immediately following Monday’s meeting. Hudson herself initially suggested a cost estimate of $12 million, far less than the preliminary tally announced today.
“We don’t have money to pay another 40-cent pay raise, but we’ve got the money to do this?” Carl asked. “Where does this money come from? We’re going to have to raise it through bonds and that takes money from our general fund.”
Carl even compared the project to the embattled Gulfquest National Maritime Museum.
“It’s a sad day for the soccer community,” Carl said. “I was shocked. You get further away from seeing the project come together when you start throwing around those kind of numbers.”