Youth sports is a growing part of overall tourism. Large tournaments draw hundreds of youngsters and their families to an area for a long weekend or even more. They spend money on food, lodging and entertainment while they are here.
Franklin has looked at making youth sports marketing a specific part of its tourism efforts. Columbus has had significant success in this area, drawing thousands of people to the community for a variety of events throughout the year.
Now GoodSports Enterprises Global of Sarasota, Fla., has proposed building a $22 million hotel and field house with indoor basketball and volleyball courts at the southeast corner of County Line Road and Interstate 65, with the facilities opening in 2015.
The 85,000-square-foot field house could be used for sporting events, such as volleyball tournaments on weekends and basketball camps during the week. A 124-room, five-story hotel is geared toward athletes and their families. GoodSports plans to build 25 similar complexes across the country in the next four years due to demand for lodging and sports facilities for traveling sports teams and has made similar proposals in Ohio, Missouri and Kansas.
GoodSports plans to use 12 acres, leaving about 75 acres near County Line and Graham roads for potential development that could complement the project, such as restaurants and a movie theater, said Scott Langdon, real estate broker for the property owner. The project could kick-start more businesses.
The city redevelopment commission approved offering $2 million from the city’s tax-increment financing districts for infrastructure in the area. That money would be used to hire contractors who would do road, sewer, stormwater, sidewalk and drainage work in the area. County Line 101 Partners is paying for water lines at the property and contributing $500,000 toward the road projects, including Innovation Parkway and a cul-de-sac for McColgin Drive.
The work also would make other land around the proposed complex ready for development.
Greenwood’s incentive offer to GoodSports almost pales in comparison to three others cities. Huber Heights, Ohio, has offered $2 million in land. Wichita, Kan., is offering a package worth $40 million, a good portion of which will go toward improving an interstate interchange. And Charlotte, N.C., is offering a $25 million package that includes $18 million in construction support.
Because of the dashed hopes from the Cabela’s proposal for the GoodSports site and the disastrous investment in a biosciences company, Greenwood needs to be careful how it supports this latest proposal. Improving the area infrastructure is an appropriate use of tax-increment financing district funds, but given the fact GoodSports has no operating centers yet, anything beyond that should be weighed most carefully.
It appears the city is taking exactly the right approach.
As we said, youth sports is a growing aspect of tourism and one that has great potential for not just Greenwood but much of Johnson County. But city officials need to move carefully in offering incentives so that they are not left in a precarious position if the developer’s vision does not come to pass.