Not only a soccer stadium, but also a 41,000-square-foot grocery store, two hotels, a movie theater, restaurants and a bank are parts of $160.5 million in projected private investment in search of an estimated $4.75 million in public funding, mostly for roads, from a tax allocation district inside Statesboro’s city limits.
“In order to get that stadium built, we didn’t just want to build a soccer stadium,” South Georgia Tormenta FC President Darin Van Tassell said Friday. “We were looking at how do we best maximize economic development impact, and so it became quite clear that what we also needed to do was to develop the area around it.”
The best example he can offer, he added, is what the Atlanta Braves have done with The Battery Atlanta and SunTrust Park, “but on a very different scale than we would do in Statesboro.”
The tax allocation district, or TAD, proposal is on Statesboro City Council’s agenda for a public hearing during the 5:30 p.m. regular meeting Tuesday. Attorney Daniel M. McRae from the law firm Seyfarth Shaw’s Atlanta office is slated to present the proposal.
His work and the development of the proposal so far have been funded by the private investors, and not by the city or any other public entity.
The proposed new 290-acre TAD would surround Old Register Road south of the bypass, starting at The Clubhouse family entertainment center and the proposed Tormenta FC stadium to be built on adjoining land just north of it.
It would also include areas that are currently cotton fields across Old Register Road from The Clubhouse and the planned stadium complex, plus, on the same side as stadium but north of it, the open field along the bypass, also known as Veterans Memorial Parkway, to a line opposite the Akins Boulevard entrance to Georgia Southern University.
Stadium for starters
The first of four proposed phases of the private investment in the area will be construction of the stadium complex. Plans call for a 5,000-seat stadium, expandable to 10,000 seats, in a complex including a restaurant, parking and offices. This phase alone involves an estimated private investment of $31 million.
Van Tassell and his wife own The Clubhouse, which includes a bowling alley, arcade, restaurant and electric go-cart racetrack and is current home of Tormenta FC and its practice field.
They and a group of eight other investors own the Tormenta FC soccer franchise, and other investors joined this core to form a larger group that owns the investment area proposed for the TAD, Van Tassell said.
Yes, a supermarket
Most of the proposed private business development would be done by this group. The exception is a parcel under contract to be developed by a regional grocery store chain, which would also include other businesses in its shopping center.
Widening of a portion of Old Register Road to three lanes and construction of a four-lane divided road from Old Register, running roughly parallel to Veterans Memorial Parkway, near the current tree line are proposed as key public investments from the TAD funding.
“It is all dependent on that road being built,” Van Tassell said.
The parallel road would extend to an extension of Akins Boulevard, which the university may be involved in building, on the south side of the bypass.
This road system would serve the stadium, and also the grocery store shopping center and other businesses, which would sit between the parkway and the new parallel road.
The TAD funds can only be spent on these roads or other public infrastructure, and not on the stadium or other business properties, Van Tassell emphasized.
“That was an important piece to me philosophically,” he said. “I don’t think we should spend public dollars on private investment, but having an incentive for public dollars to be spent on roads, I think that’s a terrific use of a tax allocation district.”
The new road, he suggested, will serve a public safety purpose by providing an alternative route to dangerous left turns onto the parkway from Old Register Road.
How TADs work
A Tax Allocation District does not increase tax rates, but sets aside any increase in property tax revenue resulting from construction and increased values, after a certain date, for public spending meant to encourage development within the district. Revenue from property values that existed before the effective date continue to go to participating local governments’ general funds budgets. But the money from growth goes into the TAD fund for public spending in the identified district.
If adopted by the city as proposed, the Old Register TAD would be established for the city’s tax base Dec. 31, 2018. The proposal calls for the district to remain in effect until the public investment, in the form of bonds issued to finance the road construction and any other required infrastructure, is paid in full.
“The City anticipates dissolving the Old Register TAD once the TAD bonds are paid off,” is a statement from the written proposal.
The proposal gives a city estimate that the taxable value of property within the district as a Dec. 31 will be $2,089,729. This suggests that if even a fraction of the projected private investment is realized, the tax base in the district will be multiplied.
Unlike the city’s existing TAD for the South Main Street corridor, the Old Register proposal does not identify the affected area as blighted or distressed. Adopting terminology from Georgia law, the proposal still involves a “redevelopment plan” but relies on the idea that an “area inadequate infrastructure,” which can also qualify for a TAD under the definitions.
A schedule in the proposal suggests that, after Tuesday’s hearing, City Council could vote during its next meeting, Aug. 7, to adopt the redevelopment plan.
A different plan
This would be the city’s second TAD and the third within Bulloch County. But the city’s South Main TAD and Bulloch County’s TAD for the area around the Interstate 16 interchange on U.S. Highway 301 both involve speculative plans in search of private investment. In contrast, the Old Register proposal comes from a group of private investors with a business plan.
“I think they both have their places,” said Statesboro City Manager Randy Wetmore. “This one does have development that should occur pretty much immediately. The other one (the South Main TAD) is a little more far-reaching but it also makes an area of town a little more attractive when a business might be looking at coming here that might find a spot in the Blue Mile.”