A public hearing on the proposed construction of a sports fieldhouse at A. Perry Philips Park sparked debate from the county and community at the Columbia City Council meeting Monday night, but the council voted to move forward with the project despite requests to delay the vote and consider other options.
After much discussion, council members voted unanimously to move ahead with construction of the Philips Park fieldhouse at Philips Park but said they want to continue conversations with the county about the potential redevelopment of the former Boone County Fairground as a sports park.
“We have delayed this already by at least 90 days, and I want to make sure that we stay on track,” Mayor Brian Treece said, adding that the council already has made several votes to proceed with this plan.
The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department had planned to build at Philips Park, but the council decided to hold off on construction to consider a proposal from Boone County commissioners, who suggested the fieldhouse be built on the former fairgrounds instead. Commissioners offered the city joint ownership of the property. Their proposal called for a larger fieldhouse and other sports facilities in partnership with Matt Thornburg of the nonprofit Mid-Missouri Sports Park.
Earlier this month, the city decided against building the fieldhouse at the fairground and moved forward with the original designs at Philips Park.
“I think we would benefit from further development of the fairgrounds property with some type of regional sports destination,” Treece said. “But even if we could reach that agreement ... we would still have to follow the city’s public improvement process, which adds months before we ever get the continuous funding source that we need for that.”
Boone County Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry was both surprised and disappointed at the council’s decision to decline the county’s offer.
Parry emailed a letter Friday to council members asking them to hold off for 90 days to reconsider plans for the Philips Park fieldhouse. He argued that building the fieldhouse at the fairground would benefit the city and its citizens more.
“I believe that once you more thoroughly study the impact of attracting regional tournaments with a 13-court basketball coliseum versus a 4-court field house, you will be convinced that the reward of such an investment far outweighs the risk,” Parry wrote in the letter.
Several speakers supported Parry and his proposal during the public hearing. Of the eight residents who spoke, five advocated delaying the vote, mentioning that the acreage set aside for agricultural purposes at the former fairground property would benefit the community in ways the Philips Park plan would not. They also mentioned that the property would allow space to build a larger sports park.
Two members of the Columbia Youth Basketball Association spoke in favor of the Philips Park fieldhouse, adding that its board was ready to donate $100,000 to the project and that it is willing to help raise money for future expansion.
“We’ve been looking with interest at the two projects you’ve been looking at,” said Dean Berry, founder of the Columbia Youth Basketball Association. “We would love to have a building in Columbia with 13 basketball courts, but we don’t think that that’s a viable project out there.”
Columbia resident John Clark said he was not against the fieldhouse at Philips Park but was very disappointed that the building would not be a recreational center. He said the city needs facilities geared towards individual use, rather than building a team sports park.
Plans for the first phase of construction include four hardwood courts, office space, restroom facilities, multipurpose rooms and a concession area.
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart