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Effingham discusses proposed $14M sports complex | Local News

Effingham discusses proposed M sports complex | Local News

The Effingham City Council this week discussed a cost-sharing agreement to study a proposed sports complex.

Courtney Yockey, president and CEO of the Effingham Regional Growth Alliance, proposed dividing the cost of the study equally with the city. Dr. Patrick Rishe, founder and CEO of Sportsimpacts — a company that provides economic impact analyses and feasibility studies — would be enlisted to conduct the survey on the proposed $14 million project, dubbed the Effingham Showcase Center.

Rishe comes with ample experience, having performed more than 90 economic impact studies on the biggest events in the sports world – from Super Bowls to Final Fours to Division I Championships of any kind and even e-sports competitions like the League of Legends Summer Championship.

He also has experience with Effingham, having performed feasibility studies on projects like the Effingham Performance Center, the Corvette Funfest and the Workman Sports and Wellness Complex, which is west of the proposed facility.

“He said that he can do it in 90-120 days,” Yockey said. “We hope that’s closer to 90 and he gave us a price range of $20-30,000.”

The project — the brainchild of Ryan Engel, a local engineer with children playing in travel ball competitions — would consist of a 250,000 square foot dome built to specifications for indoor sports, with two baseball fields, three soccer fields and five indoor volleyball courts, with space for other sports such as softball and football alongside it.

The facility would have additional room for office, retail and dining spaces, providing it with a unique possibility for future economic growth in Effingham.

“I think it would be a tremendous driver for the additional commercial (space), additional hospitality, additional food and drink for that development in the future,” Yockey said.

Yockey said that assistance from Todd Hull, the city’s economic development director, and Jodi Thoele, the tourism director, helped to formulate a scope of work that would be provided to Rishe in order to guide him during his survey.

“Effectively, it’s a checklist of what we want to see in this impact study,” Yockey said.

The council’s lively discussion on the topic centered around whether the bold promises made by Engel and other developers could be met by the facility. One of the primary goals was to host weekend tournaments and one large week-long tournament for each of the four primary sports — softball, volleyball, soccer and baseball — at the facility yearly.

Bringing those tournaments to Effingham — even with the proposed facility — could be a challenge, one that Commissioner Merv Gillenwater said may be too much for the facility early on.

“We have to go very cautiously,” Gillenwater said. “This is like deja vu when we were talking about the (Workman) sports complex. We got the same thing — we had people go out and do all these studies (of) what we were going to be able to do and it didn’t turn out that way. Right now, we have a sports complex that was supposed to have (multiple) swim meets. We had one (last year).”

“If there are events held in other towns, those towns are not going to want to give them up. You’re going to be fighting those that are already out there and established (to) take their events from them.”

However, the potential of the facility could solve many issues for both the city and for tourists. Commissioner Larry Micenheimer said that they facility could help with building Effingham up as a destination for sports tourism, if the promises are met.

“I really think, overall, that sports tourism is one thing where we can leverage our biggest assets,” Micenheimer said. “Our location, easy in and out, hotel rooms that are empty on weekends and tons of restaurants, so I think it’s a great opportunity for the city of Effingham. It’s something that we’ve neglected to this point.”

Deputy City Administrator Dennis Presley pointed out that a proposed facility such as this could have been helpful to his family when his daughter was playing on travel softball teams as a teenager.

“During the inclement (weather) months, I can imagine we would have been trying to get into tournaments here an hour-and-a-half away into a facility like this as much as we could,” Presley said. “I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t be a popular facility.”

Commissioner Hank Stephens said that a model for developers was Peoria’s Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, a combination indoor-outdoor facility that has seen enough demand for tournaments to be turned away for a lack of space.

“They are so busy, they are turning people away,” Stephens said. “They are actually encouraging Ryan to move forward” in Effingham.

Thoele said that her team was excited for the project to move forward, also citing the potential for those attending and playing to provide a boost to the city’s economy.

“(We’re) super supportive of this,” Thoele said. “Sports tourism is the biggest economic driver there is as far as sports goes. We’re really excited of the impact that we think it can make. There’s so much potential for this, it’s an exciting thing.”