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Westfield plans $60M youth-sports complex

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The mayor of Westfield announced plans this morning to build a $60 million youth sports complex with a 4,000-seat multipurpose outdoor stadium, indoor sports facilities, and fields for baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse.

The sports facilities would anchor a 1,500-acre development by locally based Estridge Co. along Towne Road between 146th and 161st streets. The project, called Symphony, already features the Wood Wind Golf Club.

All told, the sports component and clusters of retail, hotels and residential development around it would require a public and private investment of $1.5 billion, Mayor Andy Cook said.

The city hopes to attract an unaffiliated minor-league baseball team to play in the outdoor stadium, and also hopes to lure the YMCA as a major tenant. YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has only one branch in Hamilton County, in Fishers.

The ultimate goal is to turn Westfield, a bedroom community without much of an identity, into the "Family Sports Capital of America." The city has a population of more than 20,000 people.

"This is a public-private venture which will clearly put Westfield on the map," Cook said in a statement. "We are in the process of working on creative funding mechanisms as we truly believe that we are bringing forth a tourism component benefitting the entire state."

The mayor is lobbying state officials to create a tax-increment finance district so the city can collect tax revenue to pay for the public portion of the project. The city also is working with the Hamilton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau to create a Family Sports Advisory Commission that would coordinate the development.

Cook admitted the plans are ambitious, particularly in such a rough economy, and he offered no timetable for the project to get under way. But he said the city would be ready to move fast once the economy turns.

More than 45,000 people visited Hamilton County in 2007 for sports events, spending nearly $7 million, the visitor's bureau said. The new facilities could increase that figure "many times over."

The proposal has more than a fighting chance at success in large part because of the involvement of Estridge, said Ross Reller, a senior land brokerage adviser for locally based Resource Commercial Real Estate. Shortly before the real estate market tanked, Estridge sold a piece of land in Lawrence to Monarch Beverage and sold its interest in the Indiana Downs horse track, putting it in a good financial position.

The addition of former Duke Realty CFO Matthew Cohoat to Estridge's executive team also should help, Reller said.

"Estridge has demonstrated that they know how to creatively navigate the market that we're in and have positioned themselves very shrewdly," said Reller, who is not involved with the Westfield project.

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