Bozeman city leaders agreed to take out a loan as large as $1.7 million to spot the creation of the city’s 10th sports field, making it a possible tournament site and potentially expanding local teams’ field time across seasons.

The money means the creation of the Bozeman Sports Park will include two turf fields. The city called the move a partnership with the Bozeman Sports Park Foundation, which came up with the idea. The local nonprofit is set to repay the loan through user fee agreements, which Bozeman clubs and teams are already paying for the city’s four existing fields.

“It’s a game changer for the community,” said Mitch Overton, the director of parks and recreation.

He said the turf fields could be plowed in the winter for more playing time, unlike natural fields that would be destroyed in the process. Overton said without turf fields now, it’s not unusual for Bozeman teams’ early season games to be matches against other teams that had been practicing for months.

The start of the agreement came through a 4-0 vote Monday night, with Commissioner Jeff Krauss absent. Commissioners said the park will remain public, not just slotted as a destination for soccer and lacrosse players.

The city bought the 80 acres on the corner of Baxter Lane and Flanders Mill Road in 2014.

“The city planted the seed that creates the ability for us to grow the park,” said Bridget Ekstrom with the Bozeman Sports Park Foundation Board.

The foundation is set to pay the loan back over 20 years.

The first phase of the fields are planned to wrap up this fall. More than $8.4 million of city Trails, Open Space and Parks bond money has gone toward or is slotted for the fields. At this point, the foundation has raised more than $335,000 in cash and $742,000 in pledges for the space.

Assistant City Manager Anna Rosenberry said there are some pieces of the deal that makes the city vulnerable. For starters, Bozeman would be using the majority of what’s left of its borrowing capacity for the current fiscal year.

Second — which could be viewed as a pro or con — is the foundation would manage the fields. Rosenberry said on one hand, that’s giving up some power. But the move also saves Bozeman officials some time and money.

And third, if the foundation can’t pay the loan for whatever reason, the city would be left with pulling money from its general fund for the payments. If that happens, Rosenberry said Bozeman would potentially be able to dissolve the agreement with the foundation and operate the field themselves and continue to rely on user fees to cover the loan.

“But I’m not going to say it’s not without risk here,” she said.

Monday’s vote means the city and foundation will start drafting the terms of the agreement.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

Katheryn Houghton is the city government reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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