Olympic pool sports complex headed to La Vista

Backers of a proposed multisport complex featuring an Olympic-size swimming pool announced Thursday that they have chosen a site in La Vista over one in Council Bluffs.

Information about how it would be financed and built — and how much public money would be involved — remains scarce.

But project leaders have met with La Vista, Sarpy County and state officials to discuss possible financial incentives.

The board of directors for the Nebraska Multisport Complex, formerly the Omaha Multisport Complex, has been seeking a new site since February, when plans fell through with the City of Omaha to develop the project at Tranquility Park.

Board members said they're now under contract to buy three parcels next to La Vista's Southport development near Interstate 80 and Giles Road.

The group is "thrilled" to see a project that started in 2011 "finally on a pace to get rolling," board chairman Mike Cassling said.

"As I've said before, this will transform the greater metro area, just like CenturyLink, just like TD Ameritrade, just like Holland Performing Arts Center," he said.

The 184-acre property, currently a sod farm, has a taxable value of $2.1 million, according to the Sarpy County assessor. If it weren't valued as agricultural land, its value would be closer to $2.8 million, Sarpy County Assessor Dan Pittman said.

The site is near Cabela's, Embassy Suites, the La Vista Conference Center, Courtyard by Marriott and PayPal. An Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other shops are under construction nearby.

Project representative Trisha Hoffman-Ahrens said it's too early to speculate on the cost of building the complex.

Before the deal with the City of Omaha fell through, the plan was to build at Tranquility Park near 120th Street and West Maple Road. Most of the design and construction estimates were tailored to that site, Hoffman-Ahrens said, and aren't applicable to the new site.

Cassling said the group might save some money on earthwork because the sod farm is flatter than Tranquility Park.

"But until we get down to it, we really don't know," he said. "We would just be totally guessing."

A planned capital campaign will include philanthropic appeals, Hoffman-Ahrens said.

How much taxpayers will be asked to contribute is unclear.

County officials have been briefed, but project backers haven't requested anything specific, county spokesman Fred Uhe said.

Cassling said the group doesn't know yet whether it will ask for a property tax exemption. As a nonprofit organization, though, "that's definitely on our radar," he said. The current property owner paid $47,085 in property taxes for 2014.

"We're confident now we can sit down and work out packages, a package from the city, county and state, that can make the project a success," Cassling said.

La Vista City Administrator Brenda Gunn would not discuss incentives under consideration until the City Council has the chance to review the "term sheet" — an informal document laying out each party's responsibilities, as described by city spokesman Mitch Beaumont.

La Vista residents have been reluctant to spend public money on the city's own 50-year-old pool on 84th Street. Voters rejected an $8.5 million bond issue for a new pool in 2012 and shot down a similar proposal in 2008.

Project backers have met with the Nebraska Departments of Roads, Revenue and Economic Development, said Taylor Gage, spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Ricketts was among the public officials supporting the project Thursday.

"This project will be an economic driver for the state and provide services that enhance the lives of Nebraska families," Ricketts said in a statement provided by the multisport group.

The project originally was intended to house a 50-meter pool used in the 2012 U.S.

Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, a smaller warm-up pool and tennis courts. Since then, the project has grown in scope.

La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig said the sports complex fits the city's plans for the area perfectly.

The group hasn't settled on a final design, but the plan now includes five pools, a tennis center and 13 soccer fields.

It will be open to all ages, offering swimming lessons, pickleball courts and more.

"We have a mission to make sure this is open and accessible to all in the metro area to all socioeconomic classes," Cassling said.

After two years of discussions about building the complex at Tranquility Park, the group pulled out because of site problems and a disagreement over public funding.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said then that Cassling and the board asked for too much in their negotiations with the city, including $20 million in incentives. Cassling later said that the group had already withdrawn some of those requests. But ultimately the group still decided to seek another location.

Cassling said the group looked for at least 100 acres of land close to hotels, restaurants and the Interstate. They also looked at Council Bluffs, including a site off the 24th Street exit to Interstate 29/80 near an existing sports complex.

Cassling said securing land in Council Bluffs would have taken longer than in La Vista. But he said both cities were "great partners" to work with.

Now organizers can focus on the La Vista site: conducting land surveys, environmental studies, soil tests and a traffic analysis.

They said that construction is scheduled to begin as early as this fall and that the complex should open in 2017.

World-Herald staff writer Roseann Moring contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1216, cody.winchester@owh.com

NEBRASKA MULTISPORT COMPLEX

SWIMMING

Natatorium with five pools:

Twin 50s

2012 US Olympic Swim Trials warm-up pool

54-meter-by-26-meter pool with 10 lanes

Championship pool that meets new 2016 Olympic competition standards

TENNIS

12 indoor courts and as many as 24 outdoor courts

SOCCER

13 artificial turf fields with lighting for night matches

Source: Multisport Complex organization

"As I've said before, this will transform the greater metro area, just like CenturyLink, just like TD Ameritrade, just like Holland Performing Arts

Center." — Mike Cassling, board chairman for the Nebraska Multisport Complex

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