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$30M Youth Sports Complex Planned for Council Bluffs

16 Dec, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is located five minutes from downtown Omaha, Nebraska, already features a variety of visitor attractions – the town’s Mid-America Center is an arena and convention center with capacity for 9,000 concerts attendees and up to 6,700 fans for ice hockey and arena football.

Soon, however, the town will be a youth sports hot spot as well. Frisco, Texas-based FieldhouseUSA recently announced plans to build an expansive youth sports complex near the Mid-America Center as well as a new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. The new facility is expected to offer eight full-sized wood basketball courts, 12 full-sized hardwood volleyball courts and 20,000 square feet of space for other activities including cheerleading, martial arts and gymnastics.

FieldhouseUSA, which already operates a youth league and tournament play facility in Texas, will work with The Iowa West Foundation, the master developer for the project, as well as private developers. The project is expected to cost $30 million. The City of Council Bluffs is expected to provide substantial tax breaks for the project. According to the Omaha World-Herald’s Christopher Burbach, the existing arena and largely empty adjacent business spaces have struggled financially, and it’s hoped that the new youth sports facility will bring new economic development life to the area. Iowa West has promised to boost promotion of the existing and new facilities to attract more businesses and more visitors. The goal is a revamped “destination attraction.”

“Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh said the sports complex will boost the arena area while serving an unmet need in the metropolitan area,” wrote Burcbach. “He predicted the hotel would help draw more conventions to the Mid-America Center.”

Council Bluffs City Council approval would be needed for an urban renewal district and tax-increment financing, in which a business can use a portion of its future property taxes generated by a project to pay certain upfront costs of the project.

Currently, Caesars Entertainment is managing the existing Mid-America Center, having taken over from SMG in 2012. The arena is the former home of the Iowa Blackhawks of the APFL before their move to the down-defunct Pershing Center. From 2002 to 2009, the arena hosted the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. From February, 2011 to February, 2013, it hosted roller derby bouts for the Omaha Rollergirls of the WFTDA.

Iowa West hopes to begin building the new youth sports facility next year, pending city council approval. No timetable has been announced for the beginning of construction on the hotel, which would ultimately offer visitors between 250 and 300 rooms.

FieldhouseUSA’s Frisco, Texas facility, which opened for business in March 2009 at a cost of $17 million, has generated over $110 million in economic impact for the city of Frisco, located about 20 miles north of downtown Dallas.

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