Developer backs out on $4 million soccer complex at 'the Fly' - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Developer backs out on $4 million soccer complex at 'the Fly'

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Developers scrap a plan to build a controversial soccer complex at the Fly. A vocal group of citizens forced the community organization behind the proposal to back out.

Many people like to spend their lunch hour at the Fly, one of the few parks in New Orleans with a river view. On Monday, a small group held a special celebration.

“This is a victory for the people of New Orleans, saving this park and making sure that their public spaces stay public,” said Christopher Lane an opponent of the soccer complex.

Last year, the Audubon Institute announced a deal with the Carrollton Boosters to build a $4 million soccer complex that would use up much of the current green space.

 “I think it was ill considered,” Lane said. “It was rushed too fast and it was one of those backroom deals that got pushed to the front too fast before the people of New Orleans were consulted.”

Matthew Ellis joined the celebration.

“We had no problem with the Carrollton Boosters and the idea for the proposal, we just thought this was not the right location,” he said.

A statement was released Monday by John Payne, who organized the fund-raising effort and designed the sports complex plans:

“Almost 2 years ago, I had the idea of building a new Sports Complex at “the Fly”.  After traveling to cities like Birmingham, Memphis and Lake Charles to watch my daughters play soccer, it was apparent to me that some of our athletic facilities in New Orleans needed to be upgraded.  Instead of complaining about the situation and hoping someone else would address the problem, I coordinated the design of a new Sports Complex which included a pro-turf field, new bathrooms and an upgraded playground and raised $4M from community leaders and foundations to build the facility.

"Unfortunately, this 100% privately funded, charitable project has become a hugely divisive issue for our community. Over the past few weeks, we have been working hard to build more consensus with a large group of community leaders and organizations.  We redesigned the Sports Complex to address some of the community’s concerns; however, it is now apparent that there is no design that can create common ground with so many competing interests.  Therefore, I have informed Audubon and Carrollton Boosters that it is time to stop the development of the Sports Complex. You may hear from the opponents of the project that they “won” and “defeated” the project.  But, I simply believe that no one wins when a 100% privately funded Sports Complex for children is not built.  In my opinion, charity projects should never be about wins and losses, they should only be about wins.

"Finally, as a citizen of New Orleans, I have been appalled, shocked and disappointed by the personal attacks on social media about organizations like Audubon and Carrollton Boosters as well as against some of our city’s greatest philanthropic leaders.  To insult and criticize volunteers for their work on a charity project is simply inappropriate.  Since the beginning of this project, I have respected the oppositions’ opinions on how a piece of land should be used, but I will never understand the venomous nature of some comments about the people involved with the building of a Sports Complex.  I wish our community activists and officials would get as outraged about our crime, murder rate, state budget deficit, and crumbling streets as much as they have about a new sports field, playground and bathrooms.  With the stoppage of this project, I hope we can now focus on what is really important which is making our city a better place for our children."

Some of the citizens who opposed the development, operated a Save the Fly Facebook page and started a petition to block the project said they love the Carrollton Boosters and think the field is a good idea - just not on the river.

“We just think that this river view is too special to develop any further and we would like a little more transparent process going forward,” Ellis said.

The boosters organize sports programming for a little over 4,000 families in the city. The group is disappointed that the two sides could not find a compromise. President Rini Marcus released a statement that said:

"Based on the decision by John Payne, who designed and raised the funds for the proposed Sports Complex, it is with deep regret that I announce that Carrollton Boosters is withdrawing its proposal to bring additional recreational opportunities to Audubon river view Park, also known as The Fly, said Rini Marcus, president of the Carrollton Boosters board of directors.’’

“For the past several months our organization and Audubon Commission has worked tirelessly to address concerns expressed by the community in an effort to devise a revised plan for how to best expand youth athletics in New Orleans while preserving one of our city’s precious green spaces.

“Unfortunately, those discussions have failed to yield consensus on a way forward. Carrollton Boosters provides sports programming for children from 135 different schools and approximately 4,200 families. With this proposed soccer project, our organization’s only goal was to further our mission of cultivating a spirit of sportsmanship, teamwork and competition within our community.’’

“There can be a more transparent way to approve these projects and get the community's input before it's voted on," Ellis said.

While this project appears to be a no go, Save the Fly supporters want more public input when it comes to public spaces.

Our partners at NOLA.com report that Drew Brees and Tom Benson were two of the big-name donors to the project.

Neither Payne nor the Carrollton Boosters indicated they would try to develop soccer fields in another area at this time.

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