The Yankton Youth Soccer Association (YYSA) is guaranteed a home until 2118.
However, it took a community effort to get to last week’s City Commission approval of a memorandum of understanding between the city and YYSA.
A Decade Of Uncertainty
For years, the YYSA has occupied land that was once part of the Human Services Center (HSC) campus that had been leased to them by the state of South Dakota.
YYSA president Wes Chambers told the Press & Dakotan that about a year ago, their situation became more tedious.
"We had the fields, we were occupying them, we were developing and maintaining them and had put the lighting up out there," Chambers said. "Then the state decided to sell off the grounds. The city stepped in and purchased those fields, and that ground was marked for development. The use of that property was going to be for something different than soccer fields."
He said, with their home now up for grabs for development, the YYSA began looking into alternative grounds.
"At that point, we started a long process of trying to identify a new place to build out soccer fields that would meet the needs of the community," he said. "We started to look at ground all across the area surrounding Yankton."
He said the YYSA had aimed to find a place at least close to the Yankton city limits so families wouldn’t have to drive too far as well as to give the most visibility possible to the complex.
"We developed a concept of a 40-acre complex without having a piece of property identified, and we went out into the community and started to ask for consideration and donations," he said. "The first question that was always asked was, ‘We’re interested in supporting soccer, but where’s the complex going to be?’ We couldn’t really answer that. The other thing we heard loud and clear from the community was, ‘Why don’t you just stay where you’re at?’"
Throughout this time, Chambers said the YYSA was helped immensely by the entity that sought to develop its current location.
"We engaged the city in a lot of dialogue," he said. "We had a really great partnership between Amy (Leon), Dave Mingo and Todd (Larson) up there and a lot of conversations. Still, even up until last year at this time, there was still a feeling of, ‘We’re going to try and develop out that ground for retail and other purposes.’"
Chambers said YYSA looked all over for alternatives.
"We looked at property on the east side of town and the west side of town," he said. "We were in discussions on a couple of pieces on the east side of town."
However, a major deterrence would almost inevitably come up while weighing pros and cons.
"We would come up with the development costs of bringing infrastructure in," he said. "Those were just too cost-prohibitive as an organization to take on. We’re a non-profit organization, and when you talk about building roads, developing infrastructure, … bringing in sewer and water, that was just too cost-prohibitive."
He said the YYSA considered farmland adjacent to the city as well as land already owned by Yankton Area Progressive Growth, but all of it would’ve required major infrastructure upgrades.
In November of 2016, Dr. Luke Serck, Dr. Jesse Kampshoff and Dr. Ryan Garry bought 48 acres of land to the west of the YYSA’s fields. Under the 4030 Foundation banner, the doctors hoped to turn this land into athletic fields.
However, no projects ever materialized on the property.
Chambers said the 4030 Foundation approached the YYSA first last year.
"This past winter, we had a conversation with the 4030 Foundation in regards to the land they had purchased," he said. "They had a vision for developing that property at one point for some athletic purposes. For whatever reason, their plan changed and they offered us the opportunity to buy that property."
He said the group ran into some of the same issues as being on a bare piece of land, but then an idea came to the entity.
"It would be a great place for a soccer complex, but if you’ve been out on that property, the topography of the land is such that there would have to be a lot of dirt work done out there to develop a soccer complex," he said. "We approached (4030) and said, ‘Yeah, we’re interested in buying it.’ We then turned around and went to the city and said, ‘You know, we understand you guys have a need for development land. If we’re able to secure some development land, would you be willing to trade us — we give you the development land we acquire in return for a 99-year lease on our current complex plus some additional land?’"
Chambers, along with Sondra Jensen, Cheri Loest and Jeff Wolfgram, continued negotiations with the city which led to the memorandum of understanding passed last week.
Serck told the Press & Dakotan that the 4030 Foundation has aimed to help local sporting entities.
"Our foundation’s mission has always been to promote youth activities and promote the development of the fields and quality of grounds where the kids are playing," Serck said. "Our mission is to be a catalyst to drive forward the improvements in the physical structure of these facilities to make them better."
In addition to YYSA, Serck said the 4030 Foundation also helps out with the facilities utilized by the Yankton Girls Softball Association and the Yankton Baseball Association.
Serck said they approached YYSA to help move the ball forward.
"We felt like soccer wanted to move forward, time has gone by and nothing was really happening," he said. "We got involved and were able to move things forward. That’s what we continue to want to do with other projects."
While slated to turn over 45 acres of land, the 4030 Foundation will maintain ownership of and access to the old HSC barn, though Serck said the group is unsure of what it will ultimately be used for.
With the i’s soon to be dotted and t’s soon to be crossed on land transactions, both the city and YYSA are looking at the future.
Community & Economic Development Director Dave Mingo told the Press & Dakotan that housing is likely slated for the 45 acres.
"When we talk about property that’s available, we talk about land uses that we’re in greatest need of right now," Mingo said. "That still is, primarily, in the housing sector area. There’s a number of ways that development on that property can move forward as far as making it available for private housing development. You can do that through an RFP (request for proposal) process or the commission could partner with the development corporation to sell property out there."
Additionally, the city retained 19 acres along 31st St. that could later be used for commercial development.
Mingo said the soccer complex itself could be a driver in how the area develops.
"The transition is a win-win-win," he said. "The land uses, very logically, could be experience-based types of land uses that play off of the soccer complex being there and how it will attract people. When you think of an athletic complex being in a neighborhood, you start to think about what sorts of support uses would fit well with that. Long-term, you can think of things like lodging and restaurants and things like that."
Chambers agreed on the win-win-win assessment.
"I think we ended up with the best outcome for everybody," he said. "Part of that was having gone through the process of exploring all of the other alternatives first and coming back to this spot which is, I think, truly a win-win for the entire community."
He said that the agreements for the land purchase are in place.
With YYSA’s home assured for the long-term future, Chambers said the challenge going forward will be turning the complex into a true home.
"One of the challenges we’ve had was, when you didn’t know that it was going to be your permanent home, it was hard to invest in the upkeep and maintenance of the complex because it didn’t make sense to stick money into something that you could be, literally, not playing on a year from now," he said. "We’ve been minimally maintaining it to this point. Now, what we hope to do is, as soon as we close on this transaction is we’re going to be launching a community-wide fundraising campaign. … The great news is we don’t have to start from scratch. We’re not starting with a bare piece of land. We’ve got an existing complex that we can update, build around, add on to and it’s going to reduce our costs of construction. But we still have a substantial overhaul to do to make it the complex it can be and should be for the community."
Follow @RobNielsenPandD on Twitter.