Private company and connected nonprofit competing to buy Dubuque soccer complex

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 8:56 PM CDT
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Editor’s Note: This story has been charged to show Rep. Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) was on the Dubuque Soccer Alliance’s board in the past, not currently.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A private company based in Arizona and a longtime nonprofit based in Dubuque are competing with each other to buy a soccer complex in Dubuque from the Dubuque Community School District.

Both have different plans for the facility, if the Dubuque Community School District’s Board accepts their bids to purchase the facility. The Dubuque Soccer Alliance, which is the nonprofit trying to buy the complex, said it plans to ask the city of Dubuque for $300,000 for improvements and enhancements to the fields.

Jon Dunham, who is the vice president for the Dubuque Soccer Alliance, said those improvements include lights and artificial surfaces for some fields to increase playing opportunities. He said the group hasn’t made these improvements in the past because it’s leasing the field.

“Just like any renter, you have some limitations,” Dunham said. “That’s not to say we haven’t done things over the years in terms of general upkeep things like planting trees get a quick light from the school district as the owners.”

He said the group has also added bathrooms and a concession stand with the district’s approval, but large capital improvement projects are difficult to get approved.

Dunham said the source for the group’s funding to buy the land is anonymous, as of Thursday. Documents show the group’s revenue from 2020 to 2017 was around $192,000.

Dunham said the group’s board of directors includes representative people who work for the city of Dubuque, the school district. Documents show in the past State Representative Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) was also on the board.

Isenhart said in an email to TV9 he originally represented the Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council and then became an at-large board member. He said his last term ended in November 2021.

The school board will have the ability to accept the bid from the group. The city of Dubuque approved a letter to the School Board urging them to accept the nonprofit’s bid.

Mark Dyer, who is from a private company called Court One Athletics in Arizona, said these relationships are a conflict of interest.

“It’s harmful to the community,” he said. “You know, when I look at this and I see what we are willing to offer and what they have, I can’t comprehend how anybody could actually say yes, we want to give this bid to Dubuque Soccer Alliance.”

He said his private company wants to create a multisport complex with a few outdoor soccer fields with no taxpayer dollars and his project makes more sense than fields for only one sport, which can only be used for part of the year.

Dyer, who said he’s from Dubuque, said leagues would have the availability to lease out the facility for games. However, it’s hard to know the specific business plan for the city when the school district hasn’t accepted any bid yet.

Dunham with the Dubuque Soccer Alliance said he’s concerned the private company will increase the prices people would pay to play sports. He also said the alliance’s connections with the city and school aren’t a conflict of interest, but instead a version of sweat equity after working with both the city and the school.

“The hours and hours our volunteers have spent out there, the hundred of thousands of dollars our families have contributed to make it what it is and give it the value it has, that equity is ours.”

The deadline to enter a bid to buy the property was Thursday at 5 pm. TV9 doesn’t know how many groups have prepared a bid to buy the soccer complex. The school district could also decide to not sell the property.