Ground has yet to be broken at Global Sports International’s (GSI) proposed site in Belleville due to some unspecified site issues that need to be addressed, David Thorman, a developer representing GSI, had said last Friday. A few days later, Thorman died. An update on the firm’s plans was not immediately available.
In January, the O’Fallon City Council unanimously approved entering into a $17,500 consulting agreement with GSI.
Among other improvements, GSI is hoping to find a partner or partners to install AstroTurf and lights on at least 10 of the Family Sports Park soccer fields.
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The Family Sports Park currently has 12 soccer fields, with only one of those being an AstroTurf field. Only the AstroTurf field is lighted.
O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Director Mary Jeanne Hutchison said earlier if the city wants to lure the bigger soccer tournaments, all of the soccer fields must have AstroTurf and lights.
“AstroTurf fields are the standard now,” she said.
GSI is looking to build 20 to 30 soccer fields in the metro-east, including 11 in Belleville off Illinois 15 near the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. The complex there has an estimated value of more than $10 million.
Forrest Langenfeld, of Centralia, the financial consultant for the Keller family that is developing the Belleville property, declined to comment about the status of the Belleville soccer park, saying the Kellers’ negotiations are ongoing with GSI.
However, he said construction work will not start on the Belleville soccer complex until the negotiations are completed with GSI.
“We’re right now focusing on the Hofbräuhaus restaurant, which is obviously moving along right now very nicely,” he said.
Langenfeld declined to make any comments about the future of the Belleville soccer complex.
“We have been optimistic since day one, and we have a good working relationship with (GSI),” he said. “Until he is ready to release something, it’s not our place to speak about ongoing negotiations.
“We’ll see what happens there. I wish everybody the best of luck.”
Delays in Belleville
But the Belleville soccer complex, which GSI was originally expected to open in September, has been pushed back to at least early 2017.
Ground has yet to be broken at the complex, where “there are some site issues that need to be addressed,” Thorman said in an interview before he died.
“We are working with the developer (Keller) to come to some sort of resolution with them,” he said.
However, any obstacles in Belleville have no bearing on O’Fallon.
“It’s safe to say, O’Fallon stands to gain more soccer fields,” Thorman said.
Hutchison has been meeting weekly with GSI. She said she also has been reviewing a draft plan submitted by GSI.
While work is progressing on the Hofbräuhaus, the Keller family has not announced which hotel chain would locate in the complex.
Chane Keller could be reached for comment.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said he’s “still trusting that the Kellers are still working to try everything in their power to bring a soccer complex to that project.”
If the soccer park plans fall through, Eckert said the Kellers have been contacted about other “destination-type” businesses inquiring about the site.
But he noted he wants the Keller family to finish the initial phase of 33 acres that would feature the Hofbräuhauss, hotels, restaurants and a convenience store.
“There’s been delays that I wish wouldn’t have happened,” Eckert said Thursday afternoon. “The city is still very committed to doing our end of the bargain.”
Belleville committed to pay over $2 million to extend sewer lines to the project.
The Hofbräuhauss project was first announced in early 2015 and Eckert said the latest estimate calls for the German-themed restaurant to open late this year.
“I’m still going to hold positive thoughts even though some people have been trying to preach doom and gloom.”
A win for O’Fallon?
O’Fallon owns 80 acres next to the Family Sports Park, which the city might be willing to sell.
Thorman said he was excited about the Family Sports Park, and the possibility of it becoming “a very dynamic destination sports park.”
“We believe that the St. Louis market is the hub of Midwestern soccer,” he said. “Last year, GSI booked 46,000 hotel room nights for soccer tournaments in Kansas City. In St. Louis, you are 300 miles from the next biggest market in Indianapolis or Chicago. The opportunities exist to have a really great tournament. The only thing that has kept them from having that is they have not been able to reliably host a tournament. Artificial surface fields allow you to do that.”
GSI might also find O’Fallon an attractive site because there are already a number of hotels and restaurants near the park, which is located about a mile from Interstate 64. The hotels and restaurants could be a key to where GSI ends up locating as the majority of people participating in soccer tournaments of this sort require overnight accommodations.
There already are 13 hotels or motels in O’Fallon, with plans for a five-story Marriott Townplace Suites soon.
There also is talk that another new hotel might be built across the street from the Regency Conference Center on Regency Drive. But the city has yet to receive a formal application on that latest project, said Walter Denton, O’Fallon’s director of administration.
Currently, the Shrine Hotel is the only hotel in the immediate vicinity of the proposed Belleville soccer complex.
Hutchison said she has had a draft contract for GSI drawn up, which is being reviewed by City Attorney Dale Funk. She is also continuing to hold negotiations with GSI, who earlier proposed to build a clubhouse with a restaurant inside Family Sports Park.
That proposed plan has been downsized, and recommends a restaurant not being built. Instead, more bathrooms would be added and possibly a larger concession area, according to Hutchison, who would like to see construction start in January and be completed by next fall.
The O’Fallon City Council, however, will have final say on the matter, O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham said.
He added he has spoken to GSI officials several times over the past year, and that they are excited about soccer and bringing more soccer fields to the area.
GSI, however, has not indicated to him whether it plans to build a soccer complex in O’Fallon.
“But they want to get it done,” he said. “I know that.”
The O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Committee on Aug. 8 is expected to review an economic study on how much local sports teams and traveling sports teams generate for the local economy. On March 7, the city council agreed to hire Development Strategies, of St. Louis, to do this study. This is the latest consultant O’Fallon has hired to look at its park system. Since September, O’Fallon has agreed to spend up to $48,000 for three consultants who will look at the city’s park system.
Hutchison earlier said Development Strategies’ study should help to validate the findings from the parks’ two other ongoing consultant projects.
For the past year, the local parks department has collected data on every baseball and soccer tournament held at a city park.
Hutchison said the city conservatively saw a $2 to $5 million impact on the local economy from those 25-plus tournaments.
Mike Koziatek of the News Democrat contributed to this story.
Mark Hodapp: 618-239-2688