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Discussion on sports park to be open to the public

At the request of the Columbia City Council, a Feb 5 work session on the construction of a sports park at the former Boone County Fairgrounds will be open to the public.

The proposed Mid-Missouri Sports Park would feature several basketball courts, soccer fields and more. Boone County Commissioner Fred Parry hopes the park gives surrounding areas an economic surge of activity.

Parry favors keeping these discussions behind closed doors because of the nature of the deal. “It is a real estate matter and protected by the sunshine law,” Parry said. “It’s in the best interest for the citizens of Boone County.”

At the last Columbia City Council meeting, one member of the public voiced criticism of the plan to build the sports park at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Jack Cardetti of Real Equity Management says changing the original plan to build the park at A. Perry Phillips Park is an act of betrayal on the part of Parry.

“This is something that really violates the trust of the voters,” Cardetti said.

The sports park was originally slated to be built at Phillips Park when the 2015 park sales tax passed, but now Parry hopes to build it at the fairgrounds because of the space.

For example, the Phillips park plan had four basketball courts, where the Boone County Fairgrounds layout has 13. There would also be 18 soccer fields at the fairgrounds where there would be zero at Phillips park, Parry said.

Parry said the primary reason for relocating to the Boone County Fairgrounds was a $15-20 million pledge by Mid-Missouri Sports Park, one organization that will be managing the park after construction. The nonprofit has agreed to raise and donate at least $5 million by April 1, according to Parry.

Cardetti believes the cost of the project will be put on taxpayers even after the 2015 park sales tax revenue.

“That’s the problem with backroom deals. They’re not engaging the public, they’re not doing outreach,” Cardetti said. “They’re going to try to raise the Boone County sales tax, and it’s really disrespectful to voters.”

Parry said the pledged money will fund more basketball courts and soccer fields at the park, which will in turn welcome sports tournaments to move to Columbia.

“We are hoping to attract as many as 20 big tournaments that we have lost over the years,” Parry said. “These tournaments literally draw thousands of people to Columbia.”

The fairgrounds, which is 134 acres, also has more room than Phillips Park, which is 140 acres but hosts a 40-acre lake.

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