MoHo mulls sports complex

Village, private donors and school district could collaborate on indoor pool, fieldhouse and more

Some people in Mount Horeb have talked for years about their desire to have a new facility that would expand access to sports and other activities year-round. On the same night they approved the 2023 budget, village leaders took the first step toward realizing the plan, voting in favor of using public funds to help a group of private donors purchase land for the initiative.

Many questions still remain unanswered, including what amenities the final complex would include, how much it would cost to build and manage, how it would be controlled and when such a project might come to fruition. But supporters say they are ready to put their money where their mouth is to lock up roughly 11 acres of land, located near the eastern entrance to the village, for the facility.

The group of private individuals, led by Terry Kurth, has been working on identifying land that could be utilized by the Village of Mount Horeb and the Mount Horeb Area School District for the new complex, which could include an indoor aquatics facility, a fieldhouse for basketball, volleyball and pickleball, as well as outdoor recreation space for football, soccer, baseball and softball. They have promised to give close to $1 million of their own funds, equaling roughly half of the purchase price for the land. They are working to finalize a 501c3 organization and said the Mount Horeb Gridiron Club can currently accept donations for the purchase from others who want to help.

Kurth, a 1971 graduate of Mount Horeb High School, said he hopes to achieve something similar to what he and others did more than two decades ago, when they raised $300,000 to help fund the expansion of the school gym. He described the school district’s athletic space today as “horribly deficient” and “archaic” and said he hopes his efforts can help create a pool and fieldhouse similar to the one in Sauk Prairie.

The first step, he said, is to find and buy suitably flat land, which is increasingly hard to come by in the village.

“There’s this tremendous need, and it seemed like a lot of people wanted this, but nobody was taking the bull by the horns,” he said. Prior to the village board’s vote on November 16, Kurth had already spoken with community leaders, including Mount Horeb Area School District superintendent Dr. Steve Salerno, village president Randy Littel, members of the village board and private individuals who are willing to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to the $400,000 the Kurths are offering.

“The village needs more parks and recreation, the school district needs more facilities,” Kurth said. “We need it to draw businesses here and grow the tax base. We need it because of gangs and crime; we need to give youth access to athletics as an alternative to those things.”

Kurth initially wanted to raise $500,000 in private donations and was hoping the village would pay the remaining $1.5 million to purchase the lots. However, he soon realized he could likely raise closer to half the purchase price, he said. The Kurths are offering $400,000, another individual is putting up $400,000, and the Gridiron Club hopes to contribute $50,000.

“I’m not going to own the land,” Kurth said. “I don’t want to own it. It will go to the village.”

“Ideally, we will create a foundation that will establish a private/public partnership moving forward,” he added.

“If private donors are putting in $1 million, they will want some say,” Kurth stated. “We don’t want to be the tail wagging the dog, but we will want to make sure it’s done right.” One of the most important aspects of that, he said, is making sure the facility is first and foremost for students, with the needs of the general public coming after that.

The lots included in the accepted offer are the five remaining parcels owned by County ID LLC. They are located in TIF District 3, next to Sjölinds Chocolate Factory and across from the new veterans’ memorial. Currently, these five lots generate around $42,000 in property taxes annually. If all contingencies are satisfied and the sale closes, the land will become tax-exempt and the village will no longer receive that revenue from it.

According to a memo from village administrator Nic Owen to the village board, the financials for TIF District 3 “have been very tight since the creation of the district and staff have been concerned for years about whether the district will generate sufficient tax increments to repay the debt.”

However, “recent developments in this district have increased the value and tax revenue and updated projections show the district should [generate enough] cash flow and pay off the debt by the close of the district in 2027,” Owen continued. “Annual tax increments generated from Encore’s Windflower Village cottages will help to provide the additional revenue needed. The largest remaining risk for the district is a future significant drop in the mill rate, decreasing the revenue. If that scenario happens, the village would be able to extend the life of the [TIF District] to allow additional years to recoup those costs, but in the worst case, the village levy would be needed to repay the remaining debt.”

The village and two primary landowners, County ID LLC and Symdon Brothers LLC, all share in shortfall payments if TIF District 3 fails to produce sufficient tax revenue to cover costs. The village has a letter of credit for County ID and a cash deposit from Symdon to secure these shortfall payments, Owen explained.

County ID will require release of their letter of credit and release from shortfall payments requirement prior to agreeing to the sale of the property to a tax-exempt entity, he added. Owen continued: “Symdon Brothers does not have a say in the sale of these lots, but it’s only fair to release their obligations if we agree to release County ID’s. Depending on the amount of money the non-profit group is able to contribute for the purchase, the village could either use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds or issue debt to cover the remaining amount of the purchase.”

The village has reached out to a local bank, which provided an interest rate range of 3.55 percent to 3.95 percent for a 10-year fully-amortized loan, or a 10-year term amortized over 20 years with a balloon payment in year 10 at 3.99 percent to 4.35 percent.

“The lots are flat and suitable for development into park space and there are utilities easily available for the Aquatics and Field House facilities,” said Owen. “The layout of the complex will need to work around a utility easement running between two of the lots, but preliminary designs show all desired facilities can fit. There are limitations on the sewer capacity in this area, but village engineer Rob Wright is certain that a development like this will not cause capacity issues. Per the requirements of [TIF District 3], the land will need to remain zoned as industrial, but recreational uses are permitted with a conditional use permit in this zoning.”

“The thing I keep telling everybody is, land is so tight in Mount Horeb,” said Kurth. “Where else is this going to go? It’s the only game in town, no pun intended.”

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Mount Horeb, WI

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