'You can't afford to have this site looking like that for another 20 years'

'You can't afford to have this site looking like that for another 20 years'
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima sees soccer as the answer to its problems for part of the old Cascade Mill Site; not baseball, not an aquatics center.

That's what city leaders think will get cars driving on I-82 to stop here.

Few can question soccer's growing popularity around the Valley.

That popularity spurred Yakima to look into buying 52-acres on the south end of the old cascade Mill site for a regional soccer complex.

The city says it's the cheapest plan.

An aquatics center proposed in the past would have cost $35-million and needed voters to approve a tax increase.

The Yakima Bears wanted to build a $23-million stadium, but the city didn't go along.

It could now be up to soccer to attract crowds and business.

"It provides year-round access and people and traffic that can then benefit whatever business district develops around that site," said Yakima Interim City Manager Michael Morales.

The Chamber of Commerce sees development on the site as critical.

"It's very important and it could also be the tipping point for the rest of everything that needs to happen over there," said Yakima Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Verlynn Best.

The fundamental challenge is the environmental concern as part of the proposed site sits on the old municipal landfill.

Yakima must work with the current owners on a cleanup plan the Department of Ecology can approve before any development.

City Council will decide Tuesday night whether to apply for a half-million dollar grant from the state for buying 17 of the 52 acres.

Total estimated cost is expected to be no more than $5-million.

The city has 5 years to use state money for building roads and utilities around the complex.

"I think it keeps us with our feet to the fire," said Morales. "There's a lot of money at stake if we don't get something going over that time frame."

Interim City Manager Michael Morales says this is quite frankly the biggest economic project the city has in the works and that leaving the land as you see it now is not an option.

City leaders think it will take two years to complete a deal for the land.

It still has to decide who would manage the complex once it's built.