When it comes to creating a sports destination in grand style, Hamilton County, Ind. clearly is hitting a grand slam.
In April the new Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., just north of Indianapolis, will open with 360 acres that will include a full range of championship-level fields, diamonds and facilities designed to host all types of tournaments and events for all ages.
“It will be one of the largest sports campuses in the country, with some of the best facilities available anywhere,” says William Knox, director of sports development for the Hamilton County Sports Authority, a division of the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Grand Park will contain, among other features, 31 multipurpose fields (eight with lights) suitable for a wide range of sports including soccer, lacrosse, rugby, football and field hockey; 26 outdoor baseball/softball diamonds (12 with lights); and two indoor facilities, including a large building that will house three soccer fields.
As a youth and adult recreational sports complex, Grand Park will be a premier family sports destination, hosting local, regional and national tournaments along with community sporting events. In fact, the grand plan for Grand Park started with a concern for sports and recreation in the local community.
“This whole project came about five or six years ago when we realized we needed more fields for youth sports,” Knox says. “The mayor pointed out that this could be an opportunity to create something for sports on a grander scale—a sports park that would not only benefit our residents and local youngsters but could be something that would attract events and participants from outside of this area and provide a wonderful sports experience for athletes, comfortable surroundings for families and spectators, and help benefit the area economically.”
The county put together a sports advisory committee to look into the idea. “We vetted all the sports that could be housed in a complex like this,” says Knox, who was on the committee, “and we came up with the big two: multipurpose fields and the diamond sports.” The price tag for the new park is $45 million, which is funded through the city, although Grand Park also will be seeking sponsorships to help offset some of the costs.
“We’re very excited about this project because of its size, location and opportunity it presents,” says Steve Henke, founder and president of Henke Development Group, which is the developer of Grand Park. “What’s great is a lot of different components and groups are coming together to make this successful.”
Booking Events & Tourneys
Knox says events and tournaments continue to be booked into the yet-to-be-opened facility. Organizations including the National Softball Association, Amateur Softball Association, USA Football and U.S. Youth Soccer have committed to bringing events to Grand Park.
Two key organizations involved in the new sports complex are the Lids Indiana Bulls, which is the state’s premier youth baseball organization, and Indiana Soccer. Both statewide organizations not only are moving many of their events to Grand Park, but the Indiana Bulls will manage the “diamond” side of the facility, while Indiana Soccer will manage the fields side.
“It’s great to have both the Indiana Bulls and Indiana Soccer involved in managing their respective parts of the facility, since those two organizations bring a great deal of knowledge to the sports management landscape and can truly help event organizers with exactly what they need to make their tournament or event successful,” Knox says.
Adding to the excitement about Grand Park is the opportunity for development of the land around the new facility, which is just off a major highway that also is being upgraded. Knox says companies have already been looking into developing what would amount to a “sports village” in the area—from shops and entertainment, to restaurants and hotels.
“Given the location of this sports complex, there is a lot of available acreage around Grand Park, and we’re looking at how we can best use this space for economic development all geared toward supporting and enhancing the family sports atmosphere and experience,” he says.
Strong Sports Tradition
Westfield, just north of Indianapolis, is a thriving community in Hamilton County; one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S. Grand Park is 30 minutes from downtown Indianapolis and 45 minutes from Indianapolis International Airport. The area has a number of premier golf courses (many have hosted national events, including the BMW Championships) and other state-of-the-art venues. It is becoming an increasingly popular destination for sporting events.
“We’re a growing community,” Knox says, “and we’ve always been a very sports-friendly destination with great services and facilities and a solid base of volunteers who are willing to help. We have very strong local clubs and we’re very fortunate they have elevated us to the point where events continue to want to come to this area.”
Knox says that when officials looked at the opportunity Grand Park presented, “We wanted to make sure we communicated to area residents how investing in Grand Park steps up our game even more given our positive experience with sports events in the past.”
Hamilton County had long established its street cred in sports tourism with facilities such as the 29-acre Billericay Park, with seven lighted baseball diamonds, and the Bobby A. Mills Field of Dreams, with eight baseball diamonds. The Roundtripper Academy has three diamonds and indoor training space, and has hosted large events, including its own invitational tournaments. Other larger facilities include Shamrock Springs Fields, with 12 multipurpose fields and four youth baseball diamonds.
An archery range will be added to the county’s assets soon. The Hamilton County Parks Department is building a $750,000 state-of-the-art facility capable of hosting large national and international events. “The interest for the archery facility has been amazing,” says Parks Director Al Patterson. He adds that the Parks Department plans on bidding to host the 2016 US Olympic Archery Trials at the new facility, which is expected to be operating by summer 2014. Features will include a 90-meter range with 64 shooting stations and a 30-meter range with 30 stations, a classroom for safety and education instruction, a pro shop to buy or rent equipment and a 3-D outdoor archery trail with variable-distance targets.
Adding to the Sports Mix
To help sports organizers and events rights-holders, the Hamilton County Sports Authority (HCSA) offers a well-honed menu of consulting and support services, including helping organizations to formulate bid plans or manage events. HCSA can serve as a liaison to generate room blocks with area hotels, and it can assist with site inspections, receptions, team packets and more.
Events need publicity and HCSA offers a sports marketing grant to events for out-of-area advertising and promotions to help create awareness. HCSA can distribute news releases to area media, provide lists of major media outlets in the region, promote events on their web site or even create a micro site for the event. Also, HCSA can help recruit experienced, enthusiastic volunteers through its database. “We’ll do all we can to help organizers run successful events,” Knox says.
“Hamilton County is uniquely positioned right now,” he adds. “We’re known as a very safe, friendly community with great sports programs and facilities and we’ve invested in making sure those facilities remain top-notch so we can use them not just for our local residents but for regional and national events too. Adding Grand Park to this grand-slam mix will be the icing on the cake.”
By the Numbers
Sports Campus at Grand Park
Opens: April 2014
31 Outdoor Multi-Purpose Fields
24 grass, 120 x 90 yards each (13 Riviera Bermuda, 11 Kentucky Bluegrass)
Seven synthetic turf, 120 x 80 yards each
Eight lighted, including 2 stadium fields
26 Outdoor Baseball/Softball Fields
Four synthetic turf
2 Large Indoor Facilities
300,000-square-foot building with 3 soccer fields, 115 x 75 yards each
45,000-square-foot warm-up area
30,000-square-foot mezzanine for spectators
5,000 square feet of meeting room space
10 miles of Pedestrian/Bike Trails