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Paducah, McCracken officials preliminarily agree on sports complex partnership

A visual rendering from the master plan for a proposed $42 million sports complex in Paducah.
McCracken County
A visual rendering from the master plan for a proposed $42 million sports complex in Paducah.

Plans for a $42 million sports complex in Paducah are moving forward.

A release Thursday announced that McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer and Paducah Mayor George Bray had preliminarily okayed the interlocal agreement between the two local governments to move forward with the project, which has been in the works since 2019.

The interlocal agreement – which will require the approval of the McCracken County Fiscal Court, the Paducah City Commission and the McCracken County Sports Commission – will set out the governments’ duties in the design, construction, funding, equipping, operation, management, and maintenance of what’s being called the Greenway Sports Complex.

The county will first hear the agreement on Aug. 22 and the city commission on Aug. 23. Each body will require two affirmative votes to approve it. The next sports commission meeting hasn’t yet been set, though the group will be able to approve it after one reading.

Both Clymer and Bray expect the deal to move quickly through the approval process.

“The mayor feels confident and I feel confident that our commissioners are gonna be okay with it,” Clymer said. “They've been privy to the drafts going back and forth and so I wouldn't call it a formality, but I don't anticipate there being any problems.”

Clymer is bullish on the planned facility, which will sit on the former Bluegrass Downs site in the city.

“It's big enough it's gonna reshape the community,” the McCracken County official said. “It's gonna mark us as a sports community. It's going to bring in tens of thousands of tourists – outsiders coming in and spending their money and enjoying our community.”

The judge-executive says the complex, which is expected to be operational in two years’ time, is projected to have a $3 million economic monthly impact.

Bray, too, is optimistic about the proposed facility’s revenue potential. He said he expects it to be a “shot in the arm” for the community.

Progress on the complex stalled earlier this summer amid talks between the two bodies centering on a new 911 system they would share. Bray says both local governments feel good about the planned facility after weeks of talks.

“Sports complex is tourism, and economic development. 911 is public safety,” Bray said. “My hesitancy all along was just that 911 wasn't getting the attention that it needed or the sense of urgency around it. And I feel like that we have that now.”

An overview of the terms in the interlocal agreement, provided in a release from the judge-executive’s office, includes the following:

  • Approves the Sports Complex Master Plan of February 2021.
  • Assures cooperation between all three parties, with penalties for noncompliance.
  • County leases Bluegrass Downs Property and city leases Stuart Nelson Park to sports commission.
  • County and city will equally share in upgrades to Stuart Nelson Park Road.
  • Sports Commission will develop and operate Park with assistance from Sports Facilities Corp. as an independent contractor per a Facilities Management Agreement of Dec. 2021.
  • Each party will have two representatives on a “working group.”
  • Sports commission and working group now develop final plans, bid packages for county and city review.
  • County and city each put $12.5 million in accounts within ten days of effective date of the agreement.
  • County will be “paying agent” to receive and oversee all payments of invoices.
  • City will issue municipal bonds for equal city and county benefit and obligation.
  • Sports Commission pays 80% of Transient Room Tax receipts toward city and county debt.
  • Any revenue in excess of debt is paid equally to city and county.
  • Any shortfall in revenue is paid equally by county and city.
  • After debt is paid off – projected to be 20 years – any shortfall that was paid by county and city is reimbursed by sports commission.
  • Initial lease is twenty years, with four optional renewal periods of five years, a total of forty years.
A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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