The Sports Force to be reckoned with
Georgia company building "flagship" park in Sandusky speaks about plans
MAY 15, 2015
From Maryland to California, and many other places in between, Jim Arnold and Brian Storm have helped create first-rate youth sports facilities in many communities.
But they envision their newest venture as maybe their most important.
“Our commitment to Sandusky and Erie County is that this will be a flagship park for us,” Arnold said. “We are so interested in getting this one done. It’s not only key for your community but for our company as well.”
Both representThe Sports Force, an organization developing and overseeing world-class projects.
It’s the same company local key stakeholders struck a deal with on Thursday tocreate a premier athletic complexat the former Griffing Sandusky Airport site on Cleveland Road (U.S. 6).
If everything goes to plan, construction would start later this year, and a grand opening could occur in mid-2016.
Storm’s the company’s president and CEO, while Arnold acts as the business development director.
From their Georgia office, the two spoke with the Register about this project’s significance for the local area:
On researching Sandusky and Erie County:
•Storm: “We’ve had an opportunity to look at Sandusky for several years now, and we’ve seen a couple starts and stops with opportunities there. I can remember 40 years ago traveling to Cedar Point for our annual family trip. It certainly is an icon in the Midwest. With the ongoing progress that has happened in Sandusky over the years —hotels, waterparks, all the other different, cool elements —it was a natural place for us to put a sports park there.”
•Arnold:“We look at places all over the country, and one of the most important things we can look for is a place where families can also have a vacation as part of their sports tournament experience. With the amenities that Sandusky, Cedar Point and the surrounding region offers, it makes for a perfect match of what we are looking for.”
On their experience developing parks:
• Arnold:“We have been fortunate to work with some great organizations throughout professional sports, from field renovations to other work with teams in the National Football League and Major League Baseball. Very few kids will get to play at the professional level. When we build parks, we want to make sure, from a field surface and construction standpoint, that we are building to the same specifications we would build for an NFL or MLB team. We want everyone stepping on the fields to have a professional experience.”
•Storm:“We have both been involved in sports, either playing or coaching. I’ve been involved in lots of interesting projects around the country with some of the biggest companies in the U.S., if not around the world. Combining what you love to do, and we love sports, and what you do for a living, that’s great.”
On bringing The Sports Force to Sandusky and Erie County:
• Storm:“Just the uprising support that I believe is there from the community — from the Erie County commissioners to Lake Erie Shores & Islands to Cedar Fair to Erie MetroParks — is amazing. We are excited about being part of the community and fitting into the fabric.”
• Arnold:“I’m passionate about the opportunity.”
The Sports Force bio blast
•Who:A company versed in landscape architecture; sports field and stadium architecture; urban planning; real estate development; financial expertise; land-use management and reclamation and remediation; sports field and complex construction; and sports authority and financing.
•Where:The company’s headquartered in Canton, Ga., about 40 miles north fromAtlanta.
• Projects:The company has built or is developing many different youth sports complexes, similar to the ones planned for Sandusky, in various communities:
• California: Placer Valley
• Louisiana: Baton Rouge
•South Carolina: North Charleston and Myrtle Beach
• Tennessee: Pigeon Forc
• Texas: Franklin, West Forth Worth
• Virginia: Virginia Beach and Henrico County
Among some other notable projects: The company is also building a practice facility for the Oakland Raiders and rebuilt the field surface at Lambeau Field, home to the Green Bay Packers.
At a glance:
The Sports Force came to area officials and voiced their desires to build a youth sports complex.
The complex at the former Griffing Sandusky Airport site on Cleveland Road (U.S. 6) aims to provide athletes with a world-class sporting experience on top-notch venues.
The complex would cater to various sports —including baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse — for teams traveling into Erie County.
Each field boasts synthetic surfaces. Artificial turf, as opposed to grass, can allow operators to more efficiently clean, drain and transition the field from one sport to another. The surface would also allow teams to play in both spring and fall.
Of the 10 fields proposed:
• Four offer regulation-sized professional baseball fields that can also host lacrosse and soccer.
• Three are capable of hosting adult and youth baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and other field sports.
• One championship youth baseball and softball field.
• One championship soccer and lacrosse field.
• One field specifically for people with disabilities.
Plans also call for a playground, batting cages, concessions stands, a pavilion, entertainment venue along with public nature and birding trails throughout the site.
Developers can expand the site, if necessary, by an additional 26 acres.
By the numbers: A sports complex center in Erie County
•$23.5 million:Estimated project cost to develop empty land at the former Griffing Sandusky Airport site to create a top-notch sports complex site.
To pay for the project:
•$3.5 million:money from Cedar Fair buying the former Griffing Airport site and contributing it to the project.
•$3 million:money from The Sports Force, the complex’s operator.
•$17 million:money from raising the countywide bed tax — also called the hotel-motel or lodging tax — rate by 1 percent.
Note: On Thursday, all three county commissioners — Tom Ferrell, Bill Monaghan and Pat Shenigo — and Lake Erie Shores & Islands board members asked the state legislature to allow for a 1 percent bed tax increase to greatly subsidize this complex. It’s not known if or when Erie County will receive the authority to proceed with raising the rate. The deal won't happen unless the state legislatureallows for the hike.
• 0:Amount in tax dollars from local government budgets — Erie County or Sandusky, for instance —being used to subsidized the project.
•$57 million:additional annual revenue coming into Erie County by 2020 if the complex opens in 2016.
• $1.7 million:additional annual income through the admissions and bed taxes coming into Erie County by 2020 if the complex opens in 2016.