The announcement last Friday that the City of Yankton and the Yankton Youth Soccer Association (YYSA) had reached a deal that will allow the soccer group to maintain its current facilities is (mostly) good news, for it creates some overdue, much-needed clarity to what has lately been an ambiguous existence for one of Yankton’s most popular activities.

The announcement was made during a media briefing that preceded Monday’s decision by the full City Commission. (At this writing, the results of that discussion were unknown, but it was likely considered a formality.)

The deal calls for the YYSA, whose fields are located along 31st St. on the south edge of the former Human Services Center property, to purchase 45 acres of nearby land from the 4030 Foundation. The soccer group would then transfer that land to the city in exchange for a 99-year lease on 33 acres of land that hosts the current soccer complex.

The YYSA fields have been operating in a kind of limbo for nearly a decade since the city acquired the land from the state. After that deal, the city unveiled a potential development strategy for the property, which included the sale of parcels for retail use. The soccer association was allowed to use the fields in the meantime, but always with the knowledge that it could lose its home should a land sale or development plan occur.

The prospect of the YYSA losing those soccer fields has been a topic of long discussion, which included weighing proposals for other pieces of property in or near the city.

The current deal, if approved, settles the matter, and that potentially opens a lot of new doors for the soccer association. The current fields have basically sat in limbo for the last several years; there was no incentive to significantly invest in or make improvements to the fields given the uncertain future. (And, if a new place for fields had been found, resources would have been needed to get that land in shape, a process that would have taken several years to do correctly.) Now, the future is clear. Better yet, YYSA officials know the work they have invested in the past to shape the current fields will not be lost, and they can make improvements with the knowledge that the land is basically theirs. This is also good news for the nearly 600 kids who take part in the sport, as well as the parents, coaches, referees and everyone else.

For the city, it’s a good deal because soccer leagues and soccer tournaments tend to bring people to town, and that leads to money being spent and tax coffers being fed.

Now, as an aside, there is one slight point of concern in all this.

The reason the land was acquired was to facilitate retail/residential development on the north end of Yankton and at one of the city’s busiest intersections at Highway 81 (Broadway) and Highway 50 (31st St.). However, as City Manager Amy Leon noted Friday, “The thought at that time (of the city’s acquisition) was to develop that land for retail and commercial development. Since 2010 … changes in retail globally have really lent themselves to us rethinking what the future is for Yankton in retail.”

There’s something in that statement that’s a little frustrating and concerning, in part because its truth is all too evident. The property is still a prime place for commercial development, but clearly not as prime as city officials envisioned nearly a decade ago. That’s something we really hope will change — in fact, it needs to change — for this city to grow and prosper.

Nevertheless, this soccer deal is a winner for everyone and the best course of action for the community.

kmh

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