SANDUSKY, Ohio – Just a month after the grand opening of its new outdoor sports park, Cedar Point is pitching a major expansion: an indoor sports complex that could bring amateur athletes to Sandusky year-round.
Cedar Point executives outlined their proposal to Erie County officials last week: a 185,000-square-foot complex with 10 basketball courts (convertible to 20 volleyball courts), an arena with retractable seats, a sports-medicine facility, a community recreation center and more.
The facility would be located immediately to the west of Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center, the 10-field complex that opened this spring on land that was previously occupied by Griffing Sandusky Airport. The land, on Ohio 6, is about 3 miles east of the amusement park.
Erie County Commissioner Matt Old said the new complex would build on the success of the one that just opened. “We’re exceeding expectations in year one already,” said Old. “We’re bringing a lot of new people to the region. This is an opportunity to expand on that sports-marketing piece.”
At the outdoor complex’s grand opening in April, general manager Scott Henrichsen said the facility was booked solid on weekends into the fall.
The outdoor park – popular with baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse teams – obviously can’t operate year-round; the indoor complex can.
County commissioner Pat Shenigo said the aim of the new facility is to fill Sandusky’s hotels through the winter, via basketball and volleyball tournaments, wrestling and gymnastics competitions.
“Our goal has always been the utilization of our 8,000-plus hotel rooms,” he said. “As you know, in the winter months, not a lot of people go to Cedar Point. The question is: How do we best use the infrastructure we have?”
In 2012, the Erie County Visitors and Convention Bureau commissioned a study that looked at the feasibility of adding a sports complex to the region. The study found a demand for the idea – but no developer.
Fast forward several years, and Cedar Point, partnering with Erie County and the visitors bureau, is moving forward with the recommendation. The park hired Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory to update the study.
“The community studied an indoor facility years ago, so the plan being considered now is a natural next step given the strong launch of the outdoor facility,” said Cedar Point spokesman Tony Clark. “This is a great opportunity to provide people from outside of our area a reason to visit here year-round.”
Cost of the $28 million facility would be shared: Cedar Point would contribute $5 million, plus the land. The county would pay for the remaining $23 million via its 4 percent bed tax.
Erie County increased its bed tax from 2 percent to 4 percent in 2015; that increase in bed tax revenue also funded a major portion of the new Sports Force Parks.
The commissioners are studying the financing of the new project and are expected to make a decision whether to go forward in the next few weeks. If approved, construction would likely start in 2018, with an opening in 2019.
Larry Fletcher, president of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands visitors bureau, said the business of sports tourism shows no signs of waning. The bureau has proposed creating a special sports-marketing division to help draw more athletic events to the area.
“This whole sports and event market is a growing segment of the industry,” he said. “There’s plenty of business out there. If we had the additional facilities, we would work to attract that additional business.”