The Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame (KPFHOF) board has asked the city of Nicholasville to commit to $200,000 over the next five years for the first phase of the project’s completion.
KPFHOF chairman Jim Ed Shearer presented the board’s request during Monday’s city-commission workshop.
The first phase of the project calls for the completion of a synthetic field at the field located at John Preece Park off Union Mill Road.
“The synthetic turf is the biggest thing,” Shearer said. “We’re looking for a title sponsor to get that.”
Shearer said the synthetic turf offers more flexibility and requires less upkeep than a grass field.
“We chose a year or so ago to hold off on regular grass for a field because this is the route we want to go,” Shearer said. “We are wanting this stadium to be used every day (soccer, football, band competitions, any community activity).”
Shearer told the commission that the KPFHOF has confirmed five-year commitments from nine stakeholders, including the city of Nicholasville. The Jessamine County Fiscal Court has committed to $300,000 and leasing 7.95 acres of land for $1 per year for 20 years. The Jessamine County Board of Education has theoretically committed to $250,000.
“The board of education is in a position that they can't give us any money up front, but we do have an agreement with them to lease these facilities once they’re completed,” Shearer said. “Their commitment is $250,000.”
Jessamine County Schools superintendent Lu Young said because the facility isn’t built, by law, the school board could not enter into any agreement. She added that once it is finished, the school board plans to enter into an “exclusive rights” agreement for its football and soccer teams. Young said the school board would enter into a 10-year agreement for $25,000 per year.
The city of Wilmore has not committed a sum yet, but Shearer said Mayor Harold Rainwater said “he was sure that they were in, but they had to get some particulars worked out.”
Shearer said Nicholasville Tourism and the Kentucky NFL players’ association had each committed to give $100,000 and that the project had commitments of $25,000 each from youth football, the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce and Nicholasville Now.
Shearer also said he is targeting two more shareholders but has not received commitments yet.
All told, the KPFHOF has a little more than $1 million in commitments for the project.
Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer, who serves on the KPFHOF Board, suggested the group look at bonding the project.
“Has there been any dialogue about what the fiscal court, the city of Nicholasville, the board of education, city of Wilmore would commit to if you were able to bond this project and finish the entire project and then have these entities commit to supporting that bond?” Meyer asked. “That would be something I think we ought to lay down on paper. What I’m interested in is the end result of the project — not just getting the field down, but the project as a whole being completed and finished, because that's when the community is really going to reap the benefits.”
Shearer told the mayor that the possibility of bonding the project was brought to his attention after the KPFHOF board’s last meeting.
“That's something we have not talked about,” Shearer said. “The bonding thing is a good idea, and we will be looking into that to see how that works. But right now, we’re just trying to get a commitment from our stakeholders.”
Shearer said it is important for the stakeholders to be on board so when the KPFHOF’s marketing team goes out to solicit funding from private individuals, they can show the community-wide commitment to the project.
The KPFHOF has been in the works for more than a decade, but Shearer pointed out the project is not just about a hall of fame for former football players who have Kentucky connections.
“It goes back to investing in our youth,” Shearer said. “That’s what is all about. We have got too many of our young athletes going to other counties to play because of better facilities. When that happens, you’re not going to get them back when they become freshmen in high school, and they’re going to be competing against you.”
In addition to helping Jessamine County’s youth, Shearer also pointed out the potential financial benefits to the community.
“We have been told that we have an awful good chance to get the Kentucky high-school state soccer tournament games here,” Shearer said. “And that will mean a lot of traffic for Nicholasville and Jessamine County.”
In addition, Shearer said the facility, whose total cost is $5.5 million, could bring in as much in as $60,000 a year for sports teams outside of Jessamine County that wish to practice on the turf.
“All of our local teams, we’re not charging them any fees to use the field,” Shearer said.
Because Monday’s meeting was a workshop, the city commission did not make any decision and will consider the KPFHOF for its upcoming budget.