The Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority announced Thursday that work on its 139-acre plot of land is set to start this month.
“We want to let everybody know this is a reality,” said Rep. Craig Ford, I-Gadsden, who sponsored the legislation that established the ECMSCA and is a member of its board. “So many people said this was a pipe dream — now it’s a dream come true.”
The property is located on an extension of Lindsey Street, off Alabama Highway 77 in Rainbow City. According to Ralph Burke, chairman of the authority board, work will soon begin to clear the land for construction.
“People may say they don’t see anything going on, but if they get close enough they’ll hear chainsaws going,” Burke said.
Ford wants to have between 12 and 14 soccer fields ready to use by spring next year, to accommodate the 900 soccer players in the county’s two soccer leagues. The fields also can serve as playing grounds for other sports, and softball and baseball are included in the project’s first phase.
Ford said he wants to start with local sports before working to recruit and host tournaments at the site, bringing in traffic from outside the county and tourism dollars. He and other members of the board traveled to sports complexes throughout the Southeast, and said that the influx of traffic brought in by tournaments has a massive impact on the local economy.
Rainbow City Mayor Terry John Calhoun said he hoped to see a hotel built near the property to house visitors, and Ford cited local businesses like Publix in Rainbow City and the Walmart in Gadsden as good draws for tourists looking to get their shopping handled on the road.
The project has no debt, according to Ford, and is funded through reallocated county revenues, including a lodging tax, a portion of the 1-cent sales tax and part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s in-lieu-of-tax payments. According to Burke, the project has about $500,000 in funding on hand. All told, the project will cost between $25 and $28 million to complete, he said.