Fishers City Council approves agreement for sports complex

The Fishers City Council gave the green light Monday night to a massive sports facility that’s been years in the making, but the developer will still have to sell the bonds before the project moves forward.

The more than 500,000-square-foot facility is expected to accommodate training or play for 31 sports on six turf fields and 12 hard-surface courts and in a baseball training center. A half-mile walking and jogging track will wrap around the complex on a second level, along with viewing areas, a lounge and offices. A parking lot will provide 600 spaces. The facility's proposed site is east of Olio Road along the south side of Southeastern Parkway.

The plan is modified from what GK Sports Development introduced in April 2015. That proposal included a 4,200-square-foot ice rink arena, a 245,000-square-foot fieldhouse that could accommodate 32 basketball and volleyball courts, a football field, an indoor track, a baseball training center and a 600-space parking garage. The project never broke ground, though, as the developer struggled to secure financing.

Earlier this month, GK Sports Development returned to the city with updated plans, but details shared at Monday’s meeting had already been modified from those outlined in those documents. That design called for a 382,000-square-foot complex with 245,000 square feet of turf, 12 hard-surface courts and a 17,600-square-foot baseball training center.

Cost estimates for the project have varied, but on Monday, the developers said it should cost $70 million.

Updated site plans show space for 11 retail outlots and a 120- to 140-room hotel that will surround the sports complex. The roughly 40-acre property is owned by Republic Development LLC, the lead developer of the Saxony Corporate Campus.

In order to secure financing this time around, the developer will use a special revenue bond of up to $75 million that the Fishers City Council approved on Monday, but the debt will not be backed by public dollars. The bond will be paid for with revenue generated from the facility, and any shortfall will be covered by the developer.

“This team has spent a lot of time putting together the finances for this,” Richard Arnos, president of Republic Development, said. “It’s a big project.”

Council member Pete Peterson abstained from voting. Council member David George voted against the project, citing concerns about the financial structure.

Andrew Gerdom, a principal of GK Sports Development, said company officials are confident in their ability to sell the bonds, and they hope to have financing finalized in 30 to 45 days. That would allow construction to start this fall. The facility could be open by late September or early October 2018.

The Fishers City Council also approved the development plan, which included an agreement for the city to lease the facility. According to the 20-year agreement, Fishers will pay $802,425 annually to give residents access to the courts and second-level track. The city will be able to use the courts for 11,545 hours during the school year and 14 hours per week during summer break.

The city also will be able to use the entire facility for three events per year, have equipment storage on the first floor and 250 square feet of office space on the second floor.

A not-for-profit entity known as Fishers Sports Pavilion LLC will operate the facility. Instead of paying property taxes, the organization will make guaranteed payments to the city of $600,000 for the first 10 years and $800,000 for years 11 to 20.

Fishers also will receive revenue from a ticket fee of $1 that would be charged at events. The fee revenue is expected to total $150,000 to $200,000 per year.

The city will use funds from those various revenue streams to pay for its lease.

The agreement also includes a waiver of development fees expected to total $300,000.

Arnos said he’s expecting at least 1 million visitors per year at the facility. To compare, Westfield’s Grand Park Sports Campus saw more than 750,000 visitors in 2016.

Arnos said the complex wouldn’t necessarily compete with Grand Park or the $15 million Noblesville Fieldhouse, which is now under construction, because the Fishers facility wouldn’t be designed just for the local community.

But since opening in 2014, Grand Park has hosted multiple regional and national tournaments. The Noblesville facility is expected to host tournaments on the weekends, but provide community playing time during the week.

Arnos said the mission of the not-for-profit operating the facility will be to promote youth sports and provide educational opportunities.

“This isn’t a profit-making venture for this group here,” Arnos said. “This project stands on its own financially. We think it’s going to bring people into Fishers… We think it’s going to be a big boost for this community.”

Val Belmonte, who was involved in the complex project from the start and is now the president of the not-for-profit that will operate the facility, also told the council about how successful he thinks the facility will be at Monday’s meeting.

“This is not a fieldhouse. This is not just a community center. This is a world-class facility,” Belmonte said. “You should be very very proud of what this could bring to your community.”

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