Proposal made to bring back indoor soccer

Gary B. Gray • Aug 15, 2013 at 2:04 PM

A relatively new sports organization is making a bid to bring soccer back to the Johnson City-owned indoor complex in Unicoi.

City Commissioners tonight will review a proposal by Northeast Tennessee Sports Management LLC and Michael F. Balluff to lease the complex beginning in October, to have competitive soccer under way in the facility by that time and to have the option to purchase the facility during a three-year lease.

The city sent out feelers, but only two entities expressed an interest in the property and neither submitted a formal proposal. Since that time, the city has received a lease/purchase proposal that has been reviewed by legal staff and will be recommended to commissioners for consideration.

“This will give Mr. Balluff some time to get the place cleaned up,” Johnson City Staff Attorney James Epps IV writes in a breakdown of the proposal. “Right now, the soccer complex needs work before he can use it for its intended purpose. He will have an indoor soccer complex on this site, and he plans on having it ready to open Oct. 1.”

In early 2012, Balluff told the Johnson City Press that he felt the Tri-Cities would support a well-run adult soccer league. He began started the State of Franklin Adult Soccer League, which began play on March 17, 2012, at Henley Fields in Blountville, a complex owned by the Sullivan County Soccer Association.

The lease payments are $1,000 per month from October through December 1, 2014; $2,000 per month for 2015; and $3,000 per month for 2016. Balluff would be responsible for all utilities, maintenance, repairs and improvements on the property during this time.

Balluff has the option during the lease to purchase the property at any time for $200,000. Should he not buy the property during the lease term, he would be obligated to pay the city an additional $50,000 for not exercising that option.

Though the city has owned the 20,400-square-foot metal structure since 1993, the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended the sale due to revenues and expenditures that basically have been cancelling each other out.

The Parks and Recreation Department, which has jurisdiction over the facility, informed the commission in a statement last that it had not utilized the building “through the entire period of city ownership and has no plans to utilize this facility in the future.”

Johnson City-based East Tennessee Soccer Federation had been a tenant of the facility. In 2011, the ETSF reimbursed the city about $18,000 for land that generated about $36,000 in revenue, excluding concessions, according to Charlie Stahl, assistant city manager.

Commissioners also will discuss funding for State of Franklin Improvements between Roan Street and Buffalo Street; consider the annual TIF payment for the 2012 tax year and hear a presentation on speed enforcement.

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