IBJNews

Ripken eyes Indy for major youth baseball complex

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Officials for Ripken Baseball Inc., which operates two of the top youth baseball facilities in the country, are taking a hard look at expansion locations, and Indianapolis is on the short list.

Baltimore-based Ripken Baseball, which is owned by retired major league players Cal Ripken Jr. and Billy Ripken, is well-known in youth baseball circles for its Ripken Experience baseball complexes in Aberdeen, Md., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. The facilities draw thousands of players from ages 8 through college to baseball and softball tournaments and training programs each spring and summer.

Ripken Experience, Myrtle Beach, SCRipken's South Carolina facility. (Provided photo)

Jim Arnold, Ripken’s director of projects, said the company could expand in Indianapolis as soon as 2013. Ripken has an aggressive growth plan and also is looking at Dallas and San Antonio, Texas; Port Charlotte, Fla.; and Southern California.

Ripken would need a partner willing to spend $15 million to $20 million to buy about 60 acres and build the facility in Indianapolis. Arnold added that some type of public-private partnership would be considered.

In exchange, Ripken would handle all operations, upkeep, marketing and programming. In addition, Ripken officials would attract about 1,500 travel youth baseball teams and 150,000 spectators annually, Arnold said. He wouldn’t discuss the company’s revenue, but said the facility would generate $25 million in visitor spending and a total economic impact of $40 million.

By comparison, the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever have a combined annual economic impact of $55 million, and some of the city’s biggest week-long conventions have economic impacts in the $30 million to $40 million range.

The complex would be a boon to the local hotel industry. Ripken Experience complexes team with local hotel operators to provide lodging for players and their families during tournaments, which typically last five to six days.

“The sports youth travel market is an incredibly stable segment of tourism,” said Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association spokesman Chris Gahl. “People who participate in youth travel sports, they plan, they budget and they come in droves.”

There’s another upside to a development like this, Gahl said.

“To have youth come here and have a very positive experience in Indianapolis helps build the city’s brand with the next generation,” Gahl said.

Arnold said Cal Jr., a Baseball Hall of Famer who holds the major league record for most consecutive games played, and his brother, Billy, are personally involved in selecting sites and running the venues.

“They’re very hands-on with every aspect of the operation,” Arnold said. “Their presence would definitely be felt.”

Ripken is in the early stages of scouting not just Indianapolis, but all of central Indiana, for a suitable location, Arnold said, adding that company officials have been interested for a number of years. The group even looked at former minor-league field Bush Stadium in downtown Indianapolis some time ago as a possible home for its operations. Bush Stadium is now slated to become a $23 million apartment development.

“We’ve always been interested in Indianapolis,” Arnold said. “It’s a very sports-oriented city and it’s an easy drive from a lot of baseball hotbeds, cities from St. Louis to Cleveland. The Indianapolis area also has a lot of attractions for kids and their families. We want trips to our facilities to turn into vacations."

“If we build this, we think it could be one of the best youth baseball facilities in the Midwest,” Arnold added.

Due to Indianapolis’ central location, Arnold thinks an Indianapolis facility would be busier than either of Ripken’s other two venues. The Maryland facility, which opened in 2002, draws about 850 teams annually. The Myrtle Beach complex, which opened in 2006, attracts 700. Both facilities operate at capacity.

In addition to travel tournaments, the Indianapolis facility would host local instructional leagues and youth training camps, Arnold said.

“Because Indianapolis is centrally located and there are a lot of people within a day’s drive, we think we could extend the season to have more weekend tournaments during the spring and fall months,” Arnold said.  “Indianapolis is definitely a market we want to be in if we can find the right partner. We’re going to have a Midwest facility, and Indianapolis is our No. 1 choice.”

Ripken officials hope to start talking with local government and economic development officials as well as interested investors in Indianapolis and the surrounding communities early next year.

Ripken’s facilities, Arnold said, emphasize quality over quantity. The facility likely have have fewer than 10 fields—with top-of-the-line FieldTurf playing surfaces that drain quickly to prevent rainouts.

There are also practice fields, batting cages and other on-site training facilities.

In addition to the baseball facilities, the venue could include a gift shop, restaurants and concession areas, miniature golf, a splash park, playgrounds, walking and running trails, zip lines and adventure courses, Arnold said.

Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, said the proposed project is definitely something city officials would be interested in.

“The number of visitors and the potential economic impact would definitely be something we’d like to look at,” Lotter said. “You’d also have to look at competition in the area in this category and the feasibility of this being sustainable. There could be a lot of development options for something like this.”

Youth sports are a burgeoning market with plenty of competition.

In 2010, Play Ball Indiana, a 30-year-old not-for-profit, proposed a plan to build a 28-acre sports complex on the city’s southeast side on a parcel that formerly housed the Citizens coke plant. Baseball and softball are major components of the plan. That project is on hold until finances can be secured.

In 2011, Anderson officials and business partners officially broke ground on The Farm, a 72-acre facility that will offer indoor and outdoor baseball and softball fields for training and tournaments.

The site, located off Interstate 69, will have 10 outdoor diamonds and two indoor fields, said Brad Benbow, a partner in the project. And he expects the $7.5 million project will grow even more in the future.

Earlier this month, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels joined Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and Hamilton County tourism officials for the official groundbreaking of Grand Park—a sprawling athletic facility designed to lure major youth sporting events.

The $45 million, 350-acre park was designed to include 32 soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds. Westfield officials hope the facility—on 191st Street, one half mile west of U.S. 31—will have its first full season of sporting events by 2013.

Ripken doesn't view those venues as competition.

“What we offer is totally different,” Arnold said. “We offer a very niche product, an experiential tournament. We want kids to come in and get a major league experience they can’t get anywhere else.”

“I don’t think we’d be competition for those facilities as much as complimentary, he added. "We’re here to promote the sport of baseball, and youth baseball in particular. We think that helps benefit everyone.”

Milt Thompson, a local sports marketer and Play Ball Indiana board member, would welcome Ripken to Indianapolis.

“With the growth in all the travel teams, there is a real need for space for these young folks to play,” Thompson said.

And since Play Ball Indiana is partially funded by the Ripken Foundation, Thompson thinks his organization might make a suitable partner.

“If Ripken is looking at Indianapolis, we’d love to talk to them about a potential partnership,” Thompson said. “It could be a match made in heaven.”



 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • RIPKEN BASEBALL COMPLEX
    Hi! Thought you might want to see this. Have a nice day! L
  • "Opportunity" Expanded
    Dara- My thoughts exactly and I wanted to expand on it. With all of USA based sports organizations in town, along with the 60 acres ball fields, the GM site could include a sports villiage with a hotel, restaurants and an office complex to house each of these sports organizations. There should be enough ground for some R&D equipment facilities as well to help provide jobs.
  • Transfer of wealth
    Exactly - the only partner they should be looking for is a bank or private investor. Public-private partnership means - please take money form the public and give it to my private company so that I can profit.

    By the way, they are looking at Central State, which is zoned for it.
  • Possible Site
    How about the old Central State site.
  • why not bush
    Why is bush stadium going to be apartments? Why not this baseball complex tax some of the other blighted area around it and redevelop it. USe bush and even victory field, stop re-inventing the wheel further from the core of the city.
  • Opportunity
    This sounds fantastic. It would be amazing to have this on the former GM site with the main diamond looking out at the river with the skyline.

    The GM site needs to be a draw for out of town visitors and this is absolutely perfect.
  • Fairgrounds?
    We the People already own the Marion County Fairgrounds...how about redeveloping that?

    Or maybe the old Ford Plant site at English & Shadeland?
  • Government is stupid
    Ripken would need a partner willing to spend $15 million to $20 million to buy about 60 acres and build the facility in Indianapolis.

    Jim Arnold, Ripken’s director of projects, said that some type of public-private partnership would be considered.

    "Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, said the proposed project is definitely something city officials would be interested in".

    So they want someone to buy them a sixty acre facility so they can collect a management fee???

    Lets talk if they want to spend the $20 million and have something invested in this other than big promises and hopes of landing a management contract.


    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

    2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

    3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

    4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

    5. Indy-area residents... most of you have no idea how AMAZING Aurelio's is. South of Chicago was a cool pizza place... but it pales in comparison to the heavenly thin crust Aurelio's pizza. Their deep dish is pretty good too. My waistline is expanding just thinking about this!

    ADVERTISEMENT