City officials this week accepted property from the Kokomo School Corporation that will be incorporated into a major east side project involving baseball and softball diamonds and tens of millions in private development.
The property, which the city had already leased from the school for nearly 31 years, includes 10 acres of land northeast of the South Goyer Road and Arnold Street intersection.
Sitting on the property is the Darrough Chapel Veterans Memorial; directly to the south is the Darrough Chapel Early Learning Center.
The land was accepted by the Kokomo Board of Public Works and Safety at its weekly meeting Wednesday.
Kokomo Director of Development Jennifer Jordan, when asked in an email how the parcel will be utilized within the Championship Park project, said only: “It’s part of the project.”
A rendering of Championship Park, however, shows what appears to be a parking lot and roadway on the land, along with part of a baseball/softball field and possibly a pond.
The rendering shows a blue rectangle southeast of the Veterans Memorial; Henke Development Group CEO Steve Henke, who is partnering with the city on the project, acknowledged at a Kokomo City Plan Commission meeting June 9 the project includes “some ponds.”
The rendering includes eight small blue sections, each a slightly different shape, throughout the project's entire map.
No money was exchanged between the city and Kokomo School Corporation for the 10 acres, although an agreement was reached to “make it a priority” to allow the school each year to host at least one baseball tournament and one softball tournament on a weekend during the spring season.
Jordan, who said the property will be retained by the city and not sold or given to Henke Development Group, explained the city will also own the eight baseball/softball diamonds being constructed as part of the project.
The city had already announced its plans to contribute an estimated $9 million to create the eight new multi-purpose fields, comprised of four high-school-sized and four youth-league-sized fields at Darrough Chapel Park.
All facilities will be outdoors and are meant to also support soccer and other sports.
To pay for its end, the city will establish a TIF, or Tax Increment Finance, district in the project area, according to Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight.
Jordan said the diamonds will be operated “either in-house, or with an outside operator.”
The city, as part of its previous agreement with the KSC, entered in 2000 into a sublease with the Howard County Veterans Memorial Corporation to provide space for the existing memorial.
Now that the lease between the school and the city has been terminated, and the property given to the city, a regular lease will be created between the Veterans Memorial Corporation and the city to allow the memorial to remain where it’s at, according to Kokomo Corporation Counsel Beth Copeland.
The Veterans Memorial Corporation does not pay the city to use the land, said Copeland, noting the city also did not pay the school for its former lease.
City officials have taken the stance that Championship Park will bolster the Veterans Memorial.
“This will have no negative impact on the Veterans Memorial,” said Jordan. “We hope this project will make the Memorial more visible and it will see an increase in traffic.”
Veterans Memorial Corporation President Jerry Paul did not return a request for comment.
Henke previously told the Tribune he hopes to start work on the project, weather permitting, before the end of 2019.
“The fields and everything would be completed and ready to play by sometime late next summer,” said Henke. “Certainly next year.”
Work on the commercial portion of the project, he noted, is also expected to start this year. He expects at least four or five tenants to be in operation by 2020.
Henke Development Group plans to invest an estimated $77 million to develop 16 out-lots on land east of Darrough Chapel Park.
The development is expected to include new business, office, retail and restaurant space. Also mentioned in the announcement was space for new hotels.
Plans for the $86 million development were unveiled July 2.
Henke Development Group is expected to appear before the Kokomo Common Council at 6 p.m. July 29 inside City Hall for a rezoning case involving six parcels.