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Soccer, rugby and lacrosse facilty a Buffalo Valley option

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jan 27, 2018 at 12:31 AM

UNICOI — Should the town of Unicoi or a private investor fail to reopen the for-sale Buffalo Valley Golf Course to golfers, Michael Balluff has and alternative proposal he believes could be equally beneficial to community.

Balluff, owner of the Tri-Cities Otters and the Johnson City Indoor Soccer facility next to the course, has proposed the development of a multi-use athletic field complex and related amenities on the lower half of the course, available year round to soccer, rugby and lacrosse teams in dire need of places to play.

And he’s accumulated about $1 million worth of artificial turf outside his indoor soccer facility on Golf Course Road.

Scaled down from a larger athletic complex proposal presented last year on the request of city of Johnson City, which owns Buffalo Valley, Balluff’s current plan includes two athletic fields to host “micro-tournaments” involving only three or four teams.

The upper section of the course, which is wooded and steep and not suited for athletic fields, would be placed in a land trust that Balluff proposes to be turn over to the surrounding neighbors to use as they wish.

He foresees the complex creating “a constant flow of tourists” and “steady, reliable stream of business” that would not only generate new sales tax revenues for Unicoi but maintain the value of the surrounding property and land tax revenues they create for the entire county.

Balluff’s plan also includes family-friendly amenities, such as a splash pad, to keep the visiting athletes’ families entertained while they are there.

Over the long term, he said, he would also try to buy and renovate the aging hotel overlooking the lower half of golf course to provide overnight accommodations for the visiting teams.

If golf continues at Buffalo Valley, Balluff said, his piles of artificial turf will be moved elsewhere. And likewise, if the neighboring property owners reject his proposal.

“I am very sincere. If the neighbors don’t want it, we are not going to do it. If it stays a golf course and doesn’t cost someone a fortune that would be great. But we think what we have is a pretty good option.

“Soccer, rugby and lacrosse are three growing sports and the only thing slowing them down is a place to play.”

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress.

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