Why John Sweeney is the man to market the $400M Gateway Soccer Village

John Sweeney

John Sweeney

The development partnership PG Partners is a joint venture between former Kansas City Chiefs safety Deron Cherry, commercial builder Kurt Pycior, and Heartland Soccer Association Executive Director Shane Hackett. Now, the team has drafted John Sweeney of Reece Commercial to act as broker for the project and attract the perfect mix of tenants for the initial 168,000 square feet of the project. We sat down with Sweeney to find out how he hooked up with the development team, and why he is the right broker for the job.

 

Give us a better picture of Gateway Soccer Village project:

“Heartland Soccer Association – who is a partner in the deal and inked a 25-year lease on the site – is the key. They have 170 club members and 1,300 teams in their league, plus they schedule games for about 4,000 teams across a handful of other soccer parks in the metro, including the fields at Scheel’s Overland Park soccer complex, Swope Soccer Village, and eventually at The Legends. The phenomenon of creating this soccer park village is pretty amazing, because the soccer alone will draw 1.5 to 2 million people annually – 5 million at build-out. That’s more people than the Royals’ record-breaking attendance this year.

“What we’re working on now is presenting the demographics in terms of who the people are that will come to this complex. If you did normal demographics with circles around Grandview, you’re not going to get a lot of households and the demographics will be somewhat limiting. With this being a destination, you have to look at the demographics a little differently. We’re getting our hands around that now and how we present that to retailers. In terms of uses, in the first phase we fully expect to have four restaurants. We’re also talking to a major hotel group right now, as well as a major health organization that wants to come, and another major corporation that everyone knows the name of. That’s all happening right now as we focus on the first 64,000 square feet of retail that will accompany the 15 soccer fields.”

Gateway Soccer Village site plan. [Click to enlarge]

How did you get involved in the development partnership?

“Mark Alford, an anchor for Fox 4, is also a residential real estate agent for ReeceNichols. We have a great referral program for residential agents to refer commercial projects so Mark actually introduced us to the principals Deron Cherry, Kurt Pycior and Shane Hackett. They met with us and several other brokerage companies, but there were two reasons they selected us:

“First, I’ve got quite a soccer background in terms of my kids. I’ve been through the highest level and have been involved with everything that this complex will provide. I’ve traveled all over the country, I’ve been to local, state, regional, and national tournaments, as well as high school soccer. Within a few minutes of them explaining the project, I stopped them and said, “I get it.” They appreciate that and need someone to understand what the soccer thing is about so I can convey that to retailers.

“I’ve also developed more than 1.5 million square feet of real estate over the years, so I have a unique perspective that not a lot of people have in terms of understanding the development and what it takes to make that development work for them.”

Seems like a testament to the strength of ReeceNichol’s referral program.

“We have 2,200 residential agents here and all but maybe 5 do not do commercial and cannot do commercial, so we set up a very strong referral program. All they have to do is set up the introduction. They can be as involved as they want or not but literally if they give us an email and a name and something happens, they get a very nice referral fee. With 2,200 agents, they know virtually everyone in this city. To be able to tap that resource is huge.”

How has your career evolved, leading you to where you are now?

“I started in commercial real estate in January 1984, as an office leasing agent for Zimmer Steinbach brokerage company, now Newmark Grubb Zimmer. I was there three years and went to Leo Eisenberg where I did a lot of office but their primary focus was retail. That’s where I started to get involved in development and investments. I was with Eisenberg for four years and I went out with a much smaller group, Terra Venture, where I was for 17 years. Half of the time I was an independent contractor working for the owners, but the second half I become one of he owners and it ended up just being two of us owning it. We developed a lot of property on 135th street. I think I’ve done deals on 135th street than any other broker in town. We did two major developments and a lot happened from there. I was there 17 years in 2008, and in 2009 the economy tanked. We were a development company and did our own projects, so in 2009 I threw myself back into brokerage. I operated as Sweeney Realty for a year, until Jerry announced in October 2009 the formation of Reece Commercial. I called him that day and came over that week and I was on board from the start.”

Who have been your biggest mentors in the industry?

“At Leo Eisenberg, Irv Maizlish. Irv passed away 10 years ago but I learned an awful lot from him. My partner at Terra Venture, Grey Turner, is a tremendous development mind. He wasn’t great at details but he really understood development. From a real estate perspective, Steve Waldman. He’s a client of mine who owns a lot of real estate and has been very successful. He gives me a different perspective on real estate than my own.”