LILBURN -- One city's dreams could soon come true, with votes set next week to pave the way to convert land once used for a sewage plant to a tourist destination.
"This will be an extraordinary thing for the city of Lilburn," Mayor Johnny Crist said of the plans to a six- to eight-field Big League Dreams ballpark. "The city of Lilburn has been in a 20-year funk. ... We need a strong, viable economic engine to rev it up."
For more than a year and a half, the city has explored the venture, and a developer is in negotiations with the sports park company, said City Manager Bill Johnsa. An agreement is expected to come in the next six months.
This week, county officials will consider a proposed contract for the city's downtown development authority to purchase a total of 37.6 acres along Indian Trail once used for the Jackson Creek Water Reclamation Facility, which was dismantled after upgrades to the sewer system made it dispensable.
With a sale price of $1.31 million -- below the $2 million appraisal because of $690,000 in environmental remediation needed on the property -- the decision will go before the Gwinnett Water and Sewerage Authority on Monday and the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
Johnsa said the property is key to the city's revitalization plan, whether the Big League Dreams deal comes through or not.
"We see it as an economic catalyst for the whole area," he said, pointing out that the land is close to the city's downtown and that it would become a taxable property again, giving a benefit to the county.
While the city paid $450,000 in 2010 for an initial license agreement as part of the proposal, Johnsa said the city intends for a developer to pay that back, as well as buy the land from the city.
The project, which includes fields that replicate some of the most famous ballparks in the country as well as a restaurant or two, is expected to bring $15 million to $20 million in investment to the community and, with regular tournaments and events, bring 2,000 to 3,000 people to the community each weekend.
"This is a unique model," Johnsa said of the city's plans to work with the ballpark company. "In this economy, there is more of an incentive. You'll see more public-private partnerships."