Five years ago, executives at Special Olympics Missouri said they were waiting for "a positive change in the economic climate" before launching a capital campaign to bring their headquarters and an athletic training facility to property south of Columbia.
The campaign is now underway after the organization secured state tax credits to use as a fundraising incentive. The group also is considering whether to build the facility â€” the Training for Life Campus â€” at the Central Missouri Events Center.
"We have had conversations" with county officials, said Lauri Shadoan, chief advancement officer for Special Olympics Missouri, or SOMO. "They would be interested in having that happen. We have yet to make any decision on that."
Boone County Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said she hopes to see some sort of partnership among several parties â€” possibly University of Missouri Extension, Special Olympics Missouri and others â€” for a new facility at the fairground property.
The county commission in December 2008 approved rezoning SOMO's 11-acre property off Bonne Femme Church Road west of Highway 63. At the time, Shadoan said SOMO hoped to begin a capital campaign in one to two years and to be in a new building in five years. She also said the purchase of the tract was a good investment "whether we had a building there or not."
The Missouri Development Finance Board has approved a tax-incentive program that will allow donors to use $1.75 million in tax credits toward the SOMO project, which aims to creat the first-ever statewide athletic training campus designed for people with intellectual disabilities.
The state summer games take place in Columbia the last week of May, and the national Special Olympics are in mid-June in New Jersey.
Shadoan said the capital campaign goal is $12.5 million. The Training for Life Campus is envisioned as a 44,000-square-foot facility that will offer year-round training and health screenings for SOMO's roughly 17,000 athletes plus their coaches and volunteers. The organization has outgrown its current state office off Dix Road in Jefferson City.
Mark Musso, president and CEO of SOMO, said the tax credits will lead to "significant economic impact" for the Columbia area.
Shadoan said the organization would move its 25 employees to the new facility and add nine new positions, including five full-time jobs. The training campus won't have on-site housing for visiting athletes and volunteers, but that feature could be added in the future, she said.
Shadoan said construction could start in 2017 after the three-year capital campaign wraps up.
"We thought we were fixed on the property where we were â€” the land that we purchased," she said. She said SOMO will listen to options for locating at the events center "and see if that makes sense to us as an organization."
"Those are all very, very preliminary discussions," Shadoan said. "There are lots of questions, lots of answers we don't have yet."
A special task force appointed last fall by the county commission to study the future of the events center recommended beefing up marketing of the 134-acre venue and attracting more equestrian and other events. The task force also suggested courting SOMO and MU Extension as ways to increase the use of the events center.