Study begins to determine feasibility of sports center

Investors and stakeholders took another step this week toward determining whether Hamilton could house a sports facility on the former Champion Paper mill property.

Moses B. Glick, owner of industrial scrap and salvage company Moses B. Glick, LLC and its division Green Reclamation, LLC, enlisted two sports center consulting and managing firms to conduct a privately funded $57,000 feasibility study for an indoor sports facility, outdoor baseball stadium and aquatic center on the 500,000-square-foot property on North B Street.

Clearwater, Fla.-based Sports Facility Advisory (SFA) operates sports facilities throughout the country and does studies and consulting for facilities around the globe with its partner company Sports Facility Management. It will focus on the feasibility of the indoor sports component of the complex, partner with Baltimore, Md.-based Ripken Sports on the outdoor portion, and Ripken will also conduct an independent analysis of whether an outdoor baseball stadium would be welcome and plausible in the area.

Glick hired Great Miami Rowing Center Board Member Frances Mennone as project manager for the development of the property in July, as well as architectural firm CDA Alliance. Mennone, who stepped down as executive director for the center on Aug. 22, said it was exciting to be talking about the possibility of the sports facility.

“We’re taking it seriously enough to see what the demand in the region is,” she said, but stressed that nothing was set in stone, and no schedule or budget had been discussed for the possible sports complex.

If built, the facility would be one of the largest of its kind in the country, Mennone said. She cited the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster, Pa., which SFA assisted in developing and opening in June 2013, as a best-practice model for the type of facility they’re interested in. The former Armstrong World Industries carpet and tile distribution center is now the official training ground for the USA women’s field hockey team, and the post-industrial building is a great comparable to the former Champion Paper, according to SFA co-owner Eric Sullivan.

Sullivan said that SFA was in the very early stages of determining what the most viable uses of the building would be for indoor sports, based on the local market.

“We’re looking at what is the right level of investment for, say, courts or aquatics,” he said.

Ripken Sports Director of Business Development Jim Arnold said that his company is overseeing the stadium aspect of the study, and have begun the overall demographic analysis of a potential 5,000-seat baseball stadium in the region.

“We will look at the drive times of people who are likely to use the facility, and will then compare it to other markets,” he said. After then analyzing sports facilities in similar markets, they can develop a plan for how a stadium would work for Hamilton.

“They’re the home of a baseball team, but are used year-round for anything from weddings to trade shows to car shows,” he said. “We want to see if there are gaps in the market where those other activities might be missing.”

The feasibility study could take between six and 12 weeks, according to Sullivan and Arnold.

“We don’t have a concrete answer of whether it’s feasible or not, as there’s still a lot of heavy lifting to do,” Sullivan said.

A conceptual rendering of the sports complex was designed by CDA Alliance co-owner Mike Dingeldein, and gives an idea of what can fit in the space. Besides the stadium, options include an indoor track and field, batting cages, volleyball courts, and a water activity complex where the rowing center now sits.

“This sports facility would be totally unique in that it would have a stadium and a water sports center,” Mennone said.

Hamilton Joes Owner and Manager Darrel Grissom has already expressed interest in a move for the summer collegiate baseball team from Foundation Field to the west side of the Great Miami River. Mennone said that the rowing center would potentially become part of the complex, should it become a reality.

“I hope it would be an asset to the city in the way that Champion Paper was,” she said. “Hopefully, there can be more positive things coming from that area of town.”

There is still substantive clean-up to be done since Green Reclamation completed demolition of most of the buildings on the property, with the final demo bringing down Champion's smokestack and boiler house on June 27.

Mennone added that regardless of what the property becomes, Glick has been careful to retain the unique and historical aesthetic of the paper factory by saving the old office building, various items such as gears and carts that were still inside the building when they began demolition, and maintaining the shell of the old factory.

“The value of that space is what is still there,” she said.

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