STERLING – The city’s planning commission on Thursday unanimously recommended that the City Council extend the life of the special use permit granted for a Sterling resident’s proposed sports complex.
Former Newman baseball coach Larry Ybarra has obtained about 22 of the 45 acres he envisioned for the $8 million project. He has an option for an additional 45 acres in the same area – at the northwest corner of Oak Grove Avenue and 23rd Street, off Lynn Boulevard. Ybarra’s brother John, a silent partner in the project, also owns the land.
Ybarra had petitioned for an extension of the annexation rights and zoning designation he needs to build the multipurpose facility. He says he needs the extra time to find investors for the privately funded project. Ybarra said he was advised to raise about 35 percent of the money through private investors and finance the rest.
“We can get low-interest, guaranteed loans if we can get 35 percent,” Ybarra told the members.
“Are you close [to getting the money]?” Rick Anderson asked.
“We feel we are getting closer with some people who are riding the fence,” Ybarra said.
Building and Zoning Administrator Amanda Schmidt said that the city staff had no issues with extending the special use designation.
The proposed project would include a football stadium that would seat 4,500, a 3,000-seat baseball stadium, an 800-seat softball quad with batting cages, a multi-use air dome, and a 30,000-square-foot multipurpose building that could be used for everything from baseball and athletic training to roller-skating and laser tag.
“I feel this is the right thing to do for our area,” Ybarra said. “I envision hotels, restaurants, and increased tax revenues. Because there are no hotels in Sterling, there are new construction opportunities.”
“Sanctioned softball tournaments could draw 8,000 to 15,000 people on weekends,” he said. “The hotels are all in Dixon and Rock Falls.”
Bob Conklin asked if the project’s feasibility studies were current. Ybarra said that he had done his due diligence over the last 7 years.
“It’s probably premature to pull the plug on this,” Steve Munson said.
Ybarra said he was relieved to get the commission’s recommendation and feels energized to continue his work.
“I was worried; you’re always concerned over things you don’t have control over,” he said.
The council originally approved the annexation agreement and R-1 special use permit for the 22-acre parcel on April 16, 2012. The original agreement called for construction of the complex to begin within one calendar year of the pact. The council extended the agreement for 6 months on May 6, 2013. The latest petition, if approved by the council, would extend the agreement until Jan. 1, 2015.
After the commission’s 6-0 vote, the request now moves to the City Council.