There is much to celebrate in Southern Highlands.
Not only has Southern Highlands recently been voted No. 1 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” awards for “Best Master-Planned Community,” but surrounding soccer, lacrosse, rugby, sand touch-football enthusiasts will have new fields for the summer, and basketball players, trail runners, and splash pad thrill seekers will have a new place to call home.
The highly anticipated Southern Highlands Sports Park is scheduled to open May 31, 2018. The long-awaited park will offer fabulous amenities including three full-size, lighted, multi-purpose fields, basketball courts, a splash pad, botanical garden and a scenic walking trail. It’s not hard to see why this community represents the “Best of Las Vegas.”
Southern Highlands isn’t your typical master-planned community. It has a small-town feel with an oasis-like landscape palette that attracts friendly neighbors from all over the country. Developer Garry Goett, who envisioned this Oasis in the Desert, wanted a community with a warm and cozy feeling of being quietly close to everything. A place, a home, where he also proudly lives and stationed his corporate headquarters, Olympia Companies.
While Southern Highlands is a vibrant and growing community and Olympia, its developer, has accomplished much, there have been hurdles since Goett acquired the property in 1995. Olympia was one of the very few development companies to both survive the devastating economic crash that began in 2007 and continue its commitment to its premiere community moving forward. Nevertheless, some of the original dreams for the Sports Park, which was set to open in 2008, had to be modified based on the financial realities of the crash.
The Sports Park, originally designed for 20 acres, had to be reduced by 3 acres. The Great Recession brought on budget restraints that hit the construction industry hard. During the peak of the Recession, land sales came to a virtual standstill, which negatively affected the funding needed to build amenities.
“Prior to the crash, land sold in Southern Highlands for a million dollars an acre, and those sales dollars gave us the revenue to not only build infrastructure and parks, but to upgrade those projects. After the recession, property sold for approximately $350,000 an acre,” Chris Armstrong, Vice President of Olympia Companies, said. “The few developers that survived were forced to financially recalculate their projects based on lower revenue streams.”
“The ones that were able to do that, like Olympia who has a strong commitment to building and living in Southern Nevada, were able to continue offering services to their residents,” Armstrong added. “Others, sadly, were forced to close their business or walk away from their projects.”
Olympia remained committed to its Sports Park and refused to let it follow the fate of the abandoned Huckleberry Park in the Providence master-planned community where the developer, Cliff’s Edge, was forced to walk away during the Recession. Unlike the Providence situation, Olympia never wavered on its commitment to complete its Sports Park.
While Olympia may have taken a 65 percent reduction in land value, it refused to reduce the Park by that same amount. Instead, everyone worked together including Clark County, the contractor Rafael Construction and Olympia to ensure that the size of the park was only reduced by 15 percent from the original commitment.
“We were certainly aware that some residents would be disappointed by the reduction and that wasn’t easy, but we felt strongly that moving forward with a quality 17-acre park was the best choice.” Armstrong stressed. “Not only will the Sports Park be completed as promised,” Armstrong added firmly, “this park will be surrounded by acres of open space that provide opportunity for expansion if the County deems that appropriate. Even though unforeseen budget restraints affected the original dream, the park will be a big asset to Southern Highlands.”
The park now features three full-size, lighted, multi-purpose soccer fields and the previously proposed baseball fields were removed. In deciding on whether to proceed with the baseball fields, the parties felt that multi-purpose fields reached a wider audience.
“These fields can be used for three full-field games, or they can be split for six half-field games. They can also be used for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, touch football, and other recreational activities that residents and visiting teams can enjoy,” said Armstrong. “Baseball is an important and popular sport, but it didn’t offer the same flexibility.”
“The residents of Southern Highlands have been patient and they will love this park,” said Melissa Angle of Rafael Construction. “The walking trails will be unique, and the botanical garden is beautifully designed. There are plenty of rest areas and ample parking. The soccer fields, basketball court and splash pad are all first rate.”
Contrary to some inaccurate social media posts about “double taxation,” Clark County has not placed the cost of maintenance and programming expenses on the shoulders of owners. Nevertheless, persistent rumors circulate. According to Angela Rock, President of Olympia Management Services, Clark County staff, developer representatives, owner-elected board member, Angie Williams and the Southern Highlands Owners Advisory Committee, are working together closely to set the proper course for these future expenses.
“Based on our meetings, we believe the County, who leases the land from the BLM, will bear the liability risk and programming expense for the Park,” said Angie Williams, owner elected board member for Southern Highlands. “We are now looking at the maintenance and security services offered by the County to determine if they meet the high standards of Southern Highlands residents.”
“There have been productive discussions, and Southern Highlands residents are being heard. Everyone is working to ensure that Southern Highlands is not harmed,” Rock said. “It is disappointing to see misleading information hamper these efforts.” Rock continued. “The social media posts claiming that Southern Highlands residents might get ‘double taxed’ couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no support for these posts,” Armstrong said. “There is absolutely no scheme on the table to double tax anyone. This park is going to be a great amenity and the residents should not let negative sentiment change a positive addition.”
This Sports Park is an incredible addition to a thriving community, and multitudes of children and families will enjoy this facility for years to come. Southern Highlands residents should be proud of their win as the ‘Best Master Planned Community in Las Vegas,’ and they will surely celebrate on May 31st.