Sugar Hill council considers extension for sports center

SUGAR HILL -- Sugar Hill continues to show its devotion to being the self-proclaimed recreation city.

Its city council plans next week to grant Global Sport United a six-month extension to begin development of a marquee sports and retail center on 90 acres off of Ga. Highway 20 adjacent to Sugar Hill Golf Course and bordering the Chattahoochee River. Two years into its 50-year land lease with Gwinnett County's third-largest city, Global Sports for a second time Monday requested additional time to secure financing for the project, named Global Sports Village at Chattahoochee Station.

John Tamburo, a managing partner of Global Sports, told the council at its monthly work session Monday night that the economic downturn continues to make securing investors for the project difficult and requested the additional time to secure a land disturbance permit the lease specified be obtained this month. Still unable to give Mayor Gary Pirkle and the council assurance financing will be secured even then, Tamburo spoke encouragingly of the project and agreed to keep the city informed of developments with investors and strides toward the start of what he estimated would be nine to 12 months of site development.

"We've had more progress in the last six months than we have in four years," Tamburo said of dialogue with investors, including real estate investment trusts in far away states. "We feel in four years of working together, we've never been closer (to beginning development)."

City Councilman Steve Edwards favored the extension for Global Sports to secure investors and begin development of what the city expects will be a world-class facility.

"This was a great concept, a great idea," he said. "It's just that the economy whacked us like nobody ever thought."

Global Sports' literature bills the mixed-use project as a unique combination of athletic facilities with sports medicine offices and retail. The hallmark of its first phase is a 260,000-square foot facility combining sports medicine offices and a recreation center. In addition to allegedly having lease interest from medical and sports training entities, including Georgia Sports Medicine and the Arthur Ashe Tennis Training and Education Center, Global Sports says it has endorsements from U.S. Soccer Federation, Georgia Soccer and the NBA Players Union.

Separately Monday, the council:

-- Held the second of three public hearings on its $27 million budget for 2012. Included in the budget are expenditures for still most of its $15 million downtown city hall complex and street scape, as well as about $450,000 in road improvements, $170,000 for storm water management enhancement, and $400,000 for recreation upgrades, including expanded parking at Gary Pirkle Park.

-- Indicated it likely will approve a contract adendum increasing the maximum price of its recently begun city hall complex about 10 percent to nearly $11 million, the result of the city's broadened scope of the project. The council plans to vote on the addendum at its monthly public meeting Monday.