The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

It’s almost game time for the Cedar Point Sports Center !

SANDUSKY, OH — In terms of progress, they’ve entered the fourth and final quarter.

Construction crews pretty much wrapped up all major building-related tasks inside the Cedar Point Sports Center on Cleveland Road (U.S. 6). It’s beside the sister outdoor site Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center.

Within the past three months, inside this $42 million state-of-the-art athletics facility, workers:

• Laid down hardwood floors in a playing area, compatible for basketball, volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading

• Painted lines atop and placed finishing protective materials, to prevent scratching, on the wood

• Enclosed the entire structure, totaling more than 200,000 square feet, when factoring in all of the complex’s uses

• Installed many windows and drywall

“We are getting down to the finishing stages,” said Duff Milkie, Cedar Fair’s general counsel and executive vice president. He’s one of the project’s main point people.

Milkie expects the facility to debut in January, right before hosting its first tournament, for basketball, there. Ground broke on the complex in summer 2018.

“We are 100 percent happy with the progress,” Milkie said. “We can’t say enough about our construction partners. They have pushed this project along and kept it on track. We feel very good about getting ready to open the facility.”

Inside the 145,000-square-foot playing area, the Cedar Point Sports Center can accommodate enough space for 10 NBA-regulation-sized basketball courts, which includes one “championship arena.” The space is also compatible for 20 regulation-sized volleyball courts or space wresting, gymnastics and cheerleading.

How it works

Cedar Point owns the center’s land. Sports Facilities Management, working in conjunction with Cedar Point’s team, runs the entire indoor complex.

Sports Facilities Management and its affiliated company, Sports Facilities Advisory, oversee a portfolio exceeding $6 billion in sports and entertainment centers. The firm manages about 15 venues across the U.S., including in Chicago and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The firm wants to attract youth-based teams from all across North America to play tournaments in Erie County. There’s also an opportunity for local teams, such as middle school-aged children from area schools, to practice and play at this facility. Community members, both children and adults, can also participate in league games there.

“We have an operating team that is working toward booking events of all types of sports and are working diligently with the rights-holders and event operators to bring them in,” said Jake Schwerer, the sport center’s marketing manager.

There’s a goal to schedule games at the complex 52 weeks a year.

“It’s not just seasonally: The facility is going to be open year-round, and we’re looking to fill events, especially during those off-peak times, when Cedar Point is closed,” Schwerer said.

Inside the 200,000-plus-square-foot facility, the Cedar Point Sports Center features about 145,000 square feet of playing areas, an indoor walking track, an orthopedics and sports rehabilitation facility, various recreational activities and more.

What’s inside the center?

Among the facility’s main components:

• The 145,000-square-foot playing area can convert into nine NBA-regulation-sized basketball courts, 20 regulation-sized volleyball courts or a space for wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading

• A “championship arena” with retractable seating for fans to watch the game

• An orthopedics and sports rehabilitation facility run by Firelands Regional Medical Center; “Having an orthopedics center — providing physical therapy, rehabilitation services, orthopedics and sports medicine — can provide services to athletes participating in the tournaments as well as local athletes who might need those services during their seasons,” Milkie said.

• Various recreational activities, such as climbing walls, a “ninja warrior” course and an arcade

• A grand lobby, or mezzanine, with event space available to rent out for community functions

• A one-eighth-mile-long indoor walking track, open for community use.

Paired with the outdoor component, both of Cedar Point’s athletics complexes will provide a game-changing experience for athletes, young and old, near and far, Milkie said.

“The new indoor facility combined with the existing first-class outdoor facility and the private development of an on-site orthopedics and sports medicine center make this a one-of-a-kind collection of first-class facilities that will both benefit area residents and drive year-round tourism to the Lake Erie shores and islands region,” Milkie said. This will “solidify Erie County’s position as a major youth sports center in the Midwest and America’s sports-family-fun capital.”

Upon opening in January, operators of the Cedar Point Sports Center invite the community to take advantage of its many amenities. This would include, at no cost, exercising along a one-eighth-mile-long indoor walking track.

The public benefit

While the facility represents an estimated $42 million cost, not a single cent comes directly from local taxpayers, officials said.

How the finances break down:

• $23 million: funds coming from Erie County through bed tax money, a fee assessed onto people, mostly tourists, whenever they stay in area hotels, motels, lodges, Airbnb or VRBO properties, bed and breakfasts and the like

• $11 million: funds coming from Firelands Regional Medical Center, which includes money from donors

• $6 million: funds coming from Cedar Fair, Cedar Point’s parent company, which is also assuming all operating risk and includes covering any yearly operating losses

• $2 million: funds coming from Sandusky through a tax-financing arrangement; This accounts for future property taxes from development occurring at this site.

A construction worker coats hardwood flooring with a protective finishing material inside the Cedar Point Sports Center on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.

Additionally, because Cedar Point owns the land, executives should pay upward of $700,000 in property taxes each year. The money goes into an account helping fund Landing Park. It’s a planned waterfront park located behind both Cedar Point sports complexes.

“We didn’t create a local tax, and we’re not spending local tax dollars on this project,” said Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo. Shenigo, along with his commission colleague Matt Old, worked with Milkie to conceive this indoor complex. “This is going to be such a benefit to our community.”

Before the project broke ground, Shenigo served as a leading voice to ensure the public would benefit from this indoor facility, both through tax dollars and actual usage.

“It’s exciting to see this project come together,” Shenigo said. “This will prove to be a great asset for our community not only to draw more tourist income year-round but also what this could become as a community center for our children, schools and seniors.”

Among other project stakeholders, Milkie appreciates the cooperation of Erie County commissioners. Without them, this wouldn’t be a possibility.

“When you come in here and look at this facility, you recognize that this is a real statement of progress for the entire community,” Milkie said. “This should serve as a constant reminder that we can accomplish a lot when we work together.”

The Cedar Point Sports Center is located on Cleveland Road (U.S. 6) in Sandusky beside its sister site: Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center. The indoor facility should open in January.

More money

When the Cedar Point Sports Center opens, it’ll serve as another tool in Erie County’s arsenal to extend the vacation season beyond spring, summer and fall.

An indoor facility can help fill hotels, motels and lodges during winter and produce many more jobs, creating “an overall improvement in the local labor market and workforce development opportunities,” according to a preliminary statement from project stakeholders upon unveiling this concept.

“By having this (indoor) facility that runs year-round, the demand for hotels now expands itself, and the hope is that it creates additional investment and broadens the economy,” Milkie said. “And when the economy grows, we can make this area more of a destination than it already is.”

Furthermore, more people staying in local lodges and shopping at area businesses, such as restaurants, equates to more available tax money officials can spend on publicly funded operations Erie County residents want and need. This would include better roads, a higher number of safety service personnel and fewer condemned homes in neighborhoods.

“This facility, which is paid for by the tourists who visit our county, will help provide year-round activity,” Old said. “More of our local businesses will be able to stay open in the winter. By extending the season, we will create more money for local governments to be able to provide services.”

A construction worker, bottom left, paints the lines for a regulation-sized basketball court inside the Cedar Point Sports Center’s “championship arena” on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.

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