OP to use $350,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds on video equipment at Scheels Soccer Complex

The council voted Monday night to spend $350,000 in CARES Act money for video broadcasting equipment to be used at the Scheels Soccer Complex so that family members can watch matches without the risk of going out amongst crowds. 

Some federal coronavirus relief money flowing to Overland Park will be used to buy video equipment to broadcast games played at the Scheels Soccer Complex, the City Council has decided.

The council voted Monday night to spend $350,000 in CARES Act money for equipment and to sign a revenue-sharing contract with Musco Sports Lighting LLC, of Oskaloosa, Iowa. CARES, which stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, is a federal aid package that funnels money to local governments to deal with pandemic-related expenses and to shore up businesses and the economy.

Video equipment would promote social distancing

The video broadcasting equipment was requested from the CARES funding because it would allow relatives to see the matches without the risk of going out amongst the crowds in cold weather. But it would also make money for the city. Part of the agreement gives city officials the go-ahead to enter an agreement with Musco dividing up the proceeds from downloads, on-demand videos and pay-per view. The city would get 70 percent of those revenues.

“We thought that this was a good avenue to provide that service to our citizens and in the meantime if we could share revenue that would benefit us as well,” said City Manager Bill Ebel.

Councilors ask if it’s a good use of funds

There were immediate questions from some councilmembers. Councilmember Scott Hamblin asked whether there might be issues with permission to broadcast children playing the amateur games.

He and Councilmember Faris Farassati also questioned whether the measure was an appropriate use of federal COVID-19 relief money.

The federal money comes to Overland Park through the state and is reviewed by county officials to determine if it meets eligibility requirements. Overland Park submitted around 30 proposals totaling about $3 million of aid. Not all were deemed allowable public health expenses, Ebel said, but this one was.

Farassati said he was troubled by the use of coronavirus aid money when people are losing jobs and having trouble paying their bills. Outdoor gatherings for things like soccer games are relatively safe, he said.

“I basically do not find this in harmony with the spirit of the CARES Act in this time of significant needs – even if somebody else was paying for it,” Farassati said.

Hamblin added that the $350,000 is still taxpayer money, “it just comes from a different pocket.”

Councilmember Chris Newlin disagreed, saying the video streaming will help parents or grandparents who may be sick and not able to go out into the cold. It also would benefit relatives who live out of town and can’t afford to travel to the games.

“Parents still want their kids to play and they want to watch them,” Newlin said.

The council approved the measure 10-2.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Newlin defended the allocation again, pointing out that the $350,000 going towards the video system at the soccer complex was earmarked for “Information Technology” and could not be transferred to another purpose, like small business aid and renters’ assistance.

“Any community that has put up any type of streaming service during COVID-19 has the same eligibility for this through the CARES Act. If we did not approve this money it would have gone back to the Federal government and be spent somewhere outside of our community,” Newlin wrote.

Other relief funds available for small businesses, others in need

City spokesperson Sean Reilly said the allocation for the video equipment does not take away from funds the city has set up to go towards other pandemic relief. In an email to the Post, Reilly said that Overland Park has received more than $450,000 in funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, that is aimed at helping small businesses, homeowners and renters who need aid.

Reilly said those funds are divided into two areas:

  • $80,000 for organizations like Safehome, Salvation Army and United Way, to work with individuals in need to provide assistance for utility payments and more.
  • $380,000 to Community Capital Fund (cckansascity.org) to distribute up to $5,000 in assistance for either mortgage or rent payment to small Overland Park businesses.

“Johnson County has allocated over $13 million to help local small businesses and has a website for companies and individuals,” Reilly wrote the Post. “You may want to talk with the county as it prepares to launch the second phase of CARES funds that would be used to assist individuals in need.”

Editors Note: This story has been updated to include comments from city spokesperson Sean Reilly, detailing sources of other COVID-19 relief funding.