GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — Work is set to begin soon on a “mega sports complex” in northeast Alabama.
Clearing the land for construction on the 139-acres (56 hectares) is set to begin this month, The Gadsden Times reported.
State Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden says he wants to have 12 to 14 soccer fields ready to use by spring to accommodate the 900 soccer players in Etowah 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, the Gadsden newspaper reported.
“So many people said this was a pipe dream — now it’s a dream come true,” Ford said.
Ford, a Gadsden independent, sponsored the legislation that established the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority and is a member of its board.
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.
With work set to begin soon, “people may say they don’t see anything going on, but if they get close enough they’ll hear chain saws going,” said Ralph Burke, chairman of the authority board.
All told, the project will cost between $25 and $28 million to complete, Burke said.