A massive sports complex could be coming to Wood County, with Perrysburg, Maumee, Rossford, and the Wood County Economic Development Commission splitting the cost of a feasibility study for an ambitious proposal.
Using the Grand Park sports campus near Indianapolis as a model, Perrysburg Mayor Michael Olmstead has brought officials from the other entities together to pay $60,000 to fund a feasibility study.
Grand Park includes 31 multipurpose fields, 26 baseball diamonds, and an indoor soccer and events center spread over 400 acres of land. The study will aim to figure out what kind of a demand there is for a facility of that scope in this area. Mr. Olmstead hopes the potential Wood County facility will be at least that size, if not larger.
“It’s one of the, if not the, largest sports complex parks in the country,” Mr. Olmstead said of Grand Park. “... Not only is it an enhancement of the quality of life, it is clearly bringing new monies into that area. I genuinely believe that can happen here, and I think we’re in a better location than Grand Park. What it doesn’t have that we have is major interstates.”
Grand Park, which opened in June, 2014, is located in Westfield, a 35,000-resident suburb of Indianapolis. According to the city of Westfield, the project had generated $148 million in economic impact for the area in 2015, with nearly 1 million unique visitors to the park.
City of Westfield officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
“When these people come in, thousands and thousands of hotel rooms are booked, and that’s not just one time. That’s every weekend,” Mr. Olmstead said.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr and Wood County Port Authority Chairman Cheryl Johnson credited Mr. Olmstead for getting the project started. Mr. Olmstead, who is up fighting for his position in Tuesday’s general election, said the announcement had nothing to do with his re-election campaign, and that the project can go forward with or without Perrysburg.
“If I had my way, this would have been announced months ago,” Mr. OImstead. “This is a regional project. I think any one of us could pull out, and say ‘We’re done,’ and I don’t think it would influence this project.”
Tom Mackin, Mr. Olmstead’s opponent in the mayoral election, said that he wished Mr. Olmstead had taken the proposal to council before spending money on the feasibility study.
“This is something that was kept from the community before being announced, kept from council,” he said. “You don’t know whether this is something the community wants or if it is something the mayor wants.”
Perrysburg’s mayor is permitted by charter to spend up to $25,000 without city council approval. The study, which will be undertaken by Chicago-based Johnson Consulting, is funded by $15,000 each from Wood County, Maumee, Rossford, and Perrysburg.
“It’s bigger than any one city,” said Wade Gottschalk, the executive director of the Wood County Office of Economic Development. “If the study comes back and says it’s a win, the next step is figuring out size, scope and how to pay for it.”
At this stage, no costs have been estimated. Any mix of private or public funding is on the table, officials said. Reporting in Indianapolis Monthly from June, 2016, showed that Westfield paid about $50 million to build the fields, which are owned by the city.
“The cost here doesn’t have to be huge,” Mr. Gottschalk said. “Depending on what you ended up doing, the fields themselves are not that expensive.”
Two Perrysburg city councilmen, Rick Rettig and Tim McCarthy, both expressed skepticism when they met with the mayor to discuss the proposal in January, 2017.
“I think we were fairly puzzled,” Mr. McCarthy, the current council president, said. “I didn’t understand how, if the city was going to put money in, how we’d get revenue out of it.”
Mr. McCarthy also suggested that, if this was a good project, the private sector should be the lead on the idea. He stopped short of rejecting the plan wholesale. He wants to see the feasibility study ordered by Mr. Olmstead completed.
Maumee’s city council unanimously approved funding a feasibility study in August.
Mr. Rettig, current chairman of the Perrysburg recreation committee, has voiced his opposition to the project in emails to other city councilmen.
“I do not, and will not, support this venture, and the spending of taxpayer money on this pet project must end,” he wrote in a June email to all city councilmen and the mayor.
Mr. Rettig said the only location discussed during his meeting with the mayor was at the intersection of State Rts. 582 and 25, in Middleton Township. Officials Thursday said that a location had not been set.
“That’s a possibility,” Mr. Olmstead said of that location, which is about three miles from the southern-most part of Perrysburg. “But we won’t know until that feasibility study comes back and says this would be the logical place can we identify exactly.”
Mr. McCarthy also said the mayor told him the facility was going to that location, which is about equidistant from Perrysburg and Bowling Green’s respective downtowns.
“I’m not sure if it wouldn’t help Bowling Green more,” he said.
No money beyond what is being spent on a feasibility study has been committed at this time.
“Nobody is jumping into this without facts,” Mr. Gottschalk said. “This is all being done in a very logical manner to determine if this is a good idea. The mayor has a great idea, we think its a good idea, we think its likely going to be a good fit for us regionally, but none of us are experts on it, so you hire an expert to tell you.”
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