Where should a new multi-million dollar sports facility go in McCracken County?

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — A new multi-million dollar sports facility is a little closer becoming a reality in Paducah. Leaders in Paducah and McCracken County are coming together next week to talk about their options.

A new facility is years in the making, but city and county leaders never moved forward because of funding and different priorities.

So what’s different this time?

“All five of us are in firm agreement that this is the highest priority right now,” said Paducah City Commissioner Gerald Watkins.

Sports facilities typically have a ripple effect on local businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and gas stations.

“This is the city commission’s highest priority right now is to build a first class sports recreational complex to improve the quality of life and to take advantage of a multi-million dollar recreation tourism industry that doesn’t want to come to Paducah for ball games because of our inferior facilities,” Watkins said.

Some county leaders are in agreement that the time is now for a new government-owned facility. McCracken County Commissioner Eddie Jones thinks the private-owned Paducah Regional Sports Plex on U.S. 60 is a viable option.

The sports plex has been up for sale for a few years now. Jones questions what would happen if it sold to someone tomorrow.

“Potentially maybe some buyers that might not use it as the sports plex, and the hole that would leave in our community if we lost it as a sports plex,” Jones said.

While researching the the indoor facility, Jones said the present owner said they saw about 1,200 teams in the past 21 months. The facility is listed for $5.3 million.

It does come with some foreseeable issues — mainly that the sport plex and the 40 acres behind it is on a floodplain.

“We’ve lived through the 2019 flood the 2011 flood, and we have good information that the water did not get into the building,” Jones said, “However, the land around the building did become soggy.”

Jones said it’s worth the investment of having an engineer figure out how to mitigate that problem.

“Frankly, we live in a city in which the convention center is built on the wrong side of the flood walls, so we’re used to having to re-engineer around flood properties,” he said.

Watkins said in his previous tenure as a city commissioner they looked at the sports plex and didn’t think it was what the city was looking for due to the flooding and location.

He prefers to build from the ground up.

“It would make sense to utilize what we already own first,” he said.

The city owns land throughout Paducah and McCracken County, including land near Kentucky Oaks Mall and Noble Park.

The Paducah Regional Sports Plex is 11 years old and is a 79,000-square-foot facility. It has a indoor turf facility, three basketball courts and volleyball court space.

Watkins said he envisions a smaller square footage for the indoor facility with better surrounding land.

They both envision the new place to have basketball courts baseball fields, soccer fields, volleyball and a swimming pool.

“Those things we probably need new construction for to be the best investment for the money we are going to spend,” Watkins said.

They all had different ideas on where the money should come from. It included a combination of grants, private trusts, a bed tax and a nominal restaurant tax.

Paducah City Commissioner Brenda McElory likes the idea of locating the sports plex at Noble Park.

“Everyone is encouraged to dream big right now, and I think we need a big complex and indoor pool, indoor basketball, walking track a place for water therapy. Just a anchor place,” she said.

She saod she is taking community input very seriously and wants more.

Everyone is in the planning phase and will bring all these ideas to a meeting on Tuesday at a joint city and county meeting to talk solely about the sporting facility.

“I’ll be coming to that meeting to listen,” Jones said.

Watkins also said he is open to anything brought to the table.

Seeing economic growth in other cities is encouraging both sides to move forward with the new plans.

Watkins said a state of the art sports complex equals jobs, and its shows in surrounding communities.

“Communities like Owensboro, Hopkinsville, Elizabethtown (are) beating our socks off in job creation and in new business openings,” Watkins said.

If you would like to give input on the new facilities, you can fill out this city survey or attend the joint meeting on Tuesday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m.