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Hoop dream: Sports commission renews pursuit of indoor facility

Hoop dream: Sports commission renews pursuit of indoor facility

EVERETT — Athletes and sports fans envision Snohomish County becoming a destination for tournaments of elite basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams.

To get there, they are restarting efforts to build a state-of-the-art indoor sports complex that was waylaid by the coronavirus pandemic.

They picture a building, maybe 100,000 square feet in size, outfitted with eight basketball courts convertible for use for volleyball, wrestling, pickleball, badminton or other indoor sports played on flat floors. There would be locker rooms and a concession area. And it could be open for community use when not reserved for athletic competitions like AAU basketball or USA Volleyball.

A location for the facility has not been determined.

A firm hired by the nonprofit Snohomish County Sports Commission is drawing up a plan to identify potential sources of funding and partners — public and private — for the venture, which is expected to be a boon for athletes and the local economy.

It will take a couple years and tens of millions of dollars to complete. If successful, it will have a lasting impact, backers said.

“I think this could be huge,” Shaun Walker, vice president of operations for 360 Hotel Group and a sports commission director. “It is going to take a while. It is going to get the next generation access to sports.”

Kicked around for years, the idea began taking shape four years ago, when the board of the county’s Tourism Promotion Area enlisted a consultant to dig in and figure out if building a big sports complex penciled out.

“I felt like we were missing something,” said Tammy Dunn, the commission’s executive director, who has been active in tourism promotion in the county since 2005. “There is a need for space for the tournaments. But there’s also the need for the community. There are not enough facilities for youth leagues to practice and play.”

That market analysis, completed in 2019 by Hunden Strategic Partners, concluded it could work. The firm found a dearth of large indoor facilities in the county and surrounding area that contain multiple courts. As a result, basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports clubs “are traveling to Spokane and Portland areas to find comprehensive indoor facilities for tournaments and other events,” authors wrote.

The shortage “has not only hindered the growth of certain sports locally, but it has limited the area’s ability to even be considered for impactful tournaments and events. National governing-body directors are frustrated with the situation, and believe a new facility (in) Snohomish County could be a game-changer for the region,” they concluded.

That 2019 study contained potential building layouts, construction costs and economic benefits and suggested a couple locations in Everett where it might fit — Phil Johnson Ball Fields and Kasch Park.

Tournaments can be an economic stimulus, they found. Hotel and motel rooms book up with athletes and their families. The report estimated a facility could generate $280 million in spending on lodging, food and transportation over 20 years.

At the time, authors believed a 68,000-square-foot facility would cost $25.8 million. Adding an indoor synthetic turf field in an adjacent building pushed the estimated overall tab to $53.8 million.

Then COVID put the kibosh on planning and pushed the commission back almost to square one. Now commissioners are looking at developing a 100,000-square-foot indoor facility. A separate synthetic turf field is still in the mix, too.

Last month, they turned to JLL, a real estate services powerhouse to help. The company’s Tourism and Destination Advisory Team will guide them in gathering information and proposals from potential partners. It will need to update information from the 2019 study because the economy is different and some of the potential sites may no longer be viable.

“The county and tourism stakeholders still consider this project to be important for attracting travelers into Snohomish County, and it’s even more important now as part of tourism and economic development recovery,” said Neepaporn Boungjaktha, a trade and tourism adviser to Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.

According to the commission, the goal is to release a request for proposals by the end of summer. The panel hopes to start receiving responses from cities, businesses and private investors this fall.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; [email protected]; Twitter: @dospueblos.