In an effort to lure more youth sports teams – and the spectators they bring – to the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, Erie County commissioners recently signed a deal with park developer Cedar Fair to build a proposed $24 million sports complex center in Sandusky, Ohio on Cleveland Road (route U.S. 6).
The contract puts into place funding mechanisms to build and operate the park, which developers say could be ready to use as early as fall of 2016. The site chosen for the new complex is the former Griffing Airport site – the airport closed in late 2013 -- which Cedar Fair will purchase for approximately $3.5 million. The waterfront project would cater to various sports, including baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse, for teams traveling into Erie County. Some of the funding for the project will be provided by a Georgia-based sports complex planning company called The Sports Force.
Developers have proposed 10 fields for the site: four would offer regulation-sized professional baseball fields that can also host lacrosse and soccer; three would be capable of hosting adult and youth baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and other field sports; one would serve as a championship youth baseball and softball field and another as a championship soccer and lacrosse field; and one final field would be specifically designed for people with disabilities. Currently, development plans for the facility also feature a playground, batting cages, concessions stands, a pavilion, an entertainment venue and public nature and birding trails.
Construction of the project, which will be funded primarily through private investment and tax money generated by tourists — could be underway by late this year, according to Andy Ouriel writing for the Sandusky Register.
“Tournament games during the spring, summer and fall seasons would ideally entice players and their families from all across Ohio and other states to visit Erie County for multiple days,” wrote Ouriel. “Project stakeholders envision families planning their summer vacations around a week’s worth of games. The tourists would then stay in area hotel rooms, stimulating the economy. But they’d also indirectly subsidize local services benefiting area residents.”
Planners were quick to emphasize that the project would be built with outside funds such as private investment and money generated by tourists, and not local taxpayer dollars drawn from residents of Erie County, Sandusky, Perkins Township, Huron or elsewhere in the area. About $17 million of the project’s funding will come from raising the countywide bed tax — also called the hotel-motel or lodging tax – by two percent.
“This is exciting for our area because we have a billion-dollar company as our partner, which promises this project will be financially successful,” Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo said. “Cedar Fair is a world-class entertainment provider and as our partner has the expertise we were looking for in terms of operations and construction of a multifaceted sports facility.”
Project developers predicted the development would lead to about 111,000 annual visitors and the creation of about 900 jobs.