Group wants Morgan Hill to become a sports destination
A group of individuals representing businesses and sport groups in Morgan Hill has come together to work on a first class sports facility concept that would allow tournament play to fully fund the facility without removing any soccer fields on Condit Road.
David Dworkin, manager of Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, has spearheaded the group. He refused to name members of the core group at this time, and would only say his group “comprises longtime residents and leaders of the community and represent diverse businesses, including retail, and all sports groups in Morgan Hill.”
Dworkin himself represents owners of hotels, motels and restaurants on Condit Road. The group’s main goal, he said, is to make sure the city does not lose sight of their vision – to make Morgan Hill a multi-sports destination.
“We want to leverage what Morgan Hill has to offer as a multi-sports destination,” said Dworkin. “Morgan Hill has the perfect geographical location, excellent demographics, including a large, active young athletic community. A multi-sports complex will complement the aquatics complex, the indoor recreation center, Henry Coe State Park, Lake Anderson, nearby golf courses and more.”
The group envisions a sports complex that is even larger than what the city actually plans. The group wants to keep all the soccer fields on the Condit site and wants to acquire at least 21 more acres.
The Redevelopment Agency purchased 36 acres bordered by Condit, Murphy, Barrett and San Pedro Avenues for $7.65 million, hoping to construct an outdoor sports complex for about $11 million. In the city’s initial plan, the 11 soccer fields that are there and currently being used by the California Youth Sports Association, would be reduced to six to make room for other playing fields, like baseball, softball and volleyball courts. The city only has a budget of $2.5 million for Phase I of the project. With funding for operations and management still up in the air, the city council decided to step back and re-examine the project earlier this month.
“We want to make sure the city understands it needs to build a first class soccer facility to take care of tournament play that will provide a safe, inexpensive place for our youth,” Dworkin said. “We need all the soccer fields to do this. We want to ensure the city understands the economic impact of the existing soccer complex to the community.”
Tournaments at the Condit fields bring a minimum of $4 million dollars annually to the local community through restaurant and hotel spending, according to Dworkin. He said the fields bring an additional economic benefit to the community through retail spending and gasoline, filtering money down to creating local jobs and increased manufacturing. The group’s figures show the benefits from the fields contribute $300,000 in direct taxes to the general fund to pay for social services, including police.
Dworkin believes the city is in a position to brand itself as a sports destination similar to how Gilroy has become known for its retail shopping and as the Garlic capital.
“Morgan Hill has no identity, and yet Morgan Hill has all the ingredients to become a destination place,” he said. “There is no better location than us.”
He listed the aquatics center, the bicycle lanes, the indoor recreation center and the soccer fields as just some of the city’s sports assets.
While Morgan Hill City Council members say they are open to the group’s idea, they also maintain a cautious stance. “We have to have not only a significant vision, but understand the constraints,” said Councilman Greg Sellers.
Sellers believes Morgan Hill can be a destination place for recreation and sports activities. He said an outdoor sports complex close to what the group envisions “would qualify” under economic development, one of the goals of the Redevelopment Agency. In past council meetings, Mayor Dennis Kennedy has referred to the possibility of extending the RDA as a solution to funding an outdoor sports complex.
“A recreation type activity would serve both purposes, for economic development and for the youngest population in the region,” Sellers said.
Councilman Mark Grzan, however, is skeptical about the group’s vision and the ability of the city to come with “the revenue stream” to support a sports complex. He pegged actual returns from the soccer tournaments at $150,000.
“We spent $7.5 million on purchasing the land, few use it, it’s only used on weekends for tournaments, little income is received. Retail revenue derived from this source is unsubstantiated,” Grzan said. “As a resident, I’m thinking, we spent $7.5 million of my tax money, I expect to have a return. You would need one million a year in order to see a seven-year return and at $150,000 return a year, we won’t recover it for almost 50 years. We would have seen a better return (of that money) in the bank.”
He indicated recent RDA projects like the community center and aquatics center are operating at a loss. He believes the indoor recreation center, which is currently being built on Edmundson Avenue, and a proposed outdoor sports complex would follow a similar path.
“Regional sports, as far as revenues for soccer for the community, I don’t see a return on the investment,” Grzan said. “The figures for the sports complex keep increasing from $7.5 million, $11 million, to as much as $20 million. It’s a cascading money pit. I think we have to say, ‘Stop, what are we doing with our money?'”
Dworkin admitted the group has no plans of operating or managing a sports facility, but members would help the city identify potential revenue streams like existing sports-oriented companies, entrepreneurial companies in Morgan Hill, fundraising through local sports groups and proceeds for initial tournaments as some sources of funds.
“The sole purpose of the group is to educate the city and its residents and identify win-win situations,” Dworkin said.
Dworkin said the core group plans to present their concept to the city in January.