Hamilton County and Amateur Sports and Regional News and Sports Venues and Sports/Recreation and Sports Business

Westfield sports complex scores deal with youth baseball group

January 28, 2011

Westfield has locked in a tenant for its planned sports mega-complex in a deal that city officials say will help drive thousands of visitors to the 300-acre site.

The Lids Indiana Bulls, a youth baseball organization for players ages 12 to 18, will host 1,500 teams at the Grand Park Sports Campus throughout the spring and summer season. Westfield leaders estimate the tournaments will draw 100,000 annual visitors, including parents, team members and talent scouts, to the area.

Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, a key architect behind the complex, said the deal helps bolster his argument that the project will be an economic development boon for the growing suburb to Carmel’s north.

Developer Steve Henke will work with the city to build the project, initially estimated at $60 million. It will be financed by a mix of private and public dollars, with the intention that money generated at the facility would cover the cost of its operations. A marketing plan detailing costs and financing proposals will be made public next month.

The goal is to attract commercial development such as restaurants, shops and hotels that would be used by those visiting for the sports tournaments. If that happens, it would strengthen Westfield’s tax base, which is now mostly residential.

“It’s an immense economic development project for our city, with the end result being a much more desirable tax bill for all of our residents,” Cook said.

The city is hoping to firm up more agreements with groups like the Bulls to use the space, which includes 58 outdoor fields for sports such as baseball, lacrosse, rugby and field hockey, in addition to an indoor facility. The city is in talks with other organizations, but Cook said “the Indiana Bulls announcement alone makes our economic model work.”

“There’s this huge growing industry of family weekend tournament sports,” Cook said. “These tournaments are going on all the time.”

The Bulls now play tournaments at facilities throughout central Indiana.

Westfield isn’t the only central Indiana community hoping to capitalize on that budding industry.

Earlier this month, investors announced plans to build a $6 million, 70-acre baseball and softball complex in Anderson that would host players ages 8 to 18.

Westfield officials expect to begin construction on the complex this year and complete the facility by late in the 2012 season. The city’s redevelopment commission would have to sign off on any public financing for the project, and Cook said the city council will be involved in that process, as well.

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