Originally pitched to break ground by 2020, the Project Fastpitch softball complex is nowhere near completion, prompting the city council on Dec. 19 to amend its agreement with the developer and allow more time for fundraising. Before council members voted on the change to the contract, the mayor requested an update.
Newton Mayor Mike Hansen acknowledged he, the city administrator and council members have received several inquiries about the project, estimated to cost more than $32 million to construct. The city’s economic development specialist, Craig Armstrong, said the delays are only really relevant to the financing aspect.
“It’s kind of a catch-22 situation,” Armstrong said. “They have to have the property under contract paid for before they can, in a conventional way, get a loan. What they have looked at is creative ways to finance this thing. And they found one that they’re fairly confident they can move forward with.”
Although Armstrong did not go into much detail about the method, he did say it was through the US Department of Agriculture and he feels it is “the most promising thing we’ve had happen with this project so far.” With that he recommended the council approve the changes to the development contract.
The amended agreement adjusted the dates to further into the future as the developer, Circle Development, LLC, works on financing. Changes include:
• Project construction date from Dec. 31, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2024.
• Minimum assessment date from Jan. 1, 2023 to Jan. 1, 2025 and the associated rebate schedule of 20 years from an end date of 2044 to 2046.
• Commencement date for certification from Oct. 15, 2023 to Oct. 15, 2025.
• Increasing the city’s legal costs withholding from the TIF rebates from $15,000 to $17,000 to cover the legal cost of preparing the second amended development agreement.
City of Newton entered into the original agreement with Circle Development on Dec. 23, 2020. The first amendment to the agreement was Dec. 23, 2021, which updated the provisions related to the assessment agreement and the period during which rebates are to be paid to the developer.
Armstrong said this second amendment buys the developer extra time to put the project together. He is confident in Project Fastpitch, noting stakeholders already have $1 million in their own money invested in this project so far. They are very well committed, he said, and they are still in good communications with the city.
“They call me back immediately and they have an assessment of where they are with the project,” Armstrong said.
Hansen added, “I know you stay on top of that. You and I have had several conversations and we both get asked from time to time … where this project is.”