Groundbreaking for Scheels Sports Park
Construction to start for a $67 million sports complex opening in 2025
Ceremonial shovels turning over dirt Sept. 20 signaled the start of construction for a $67 million sports complex that city officials said will make Springfield a popular destination for young people competing on traveling athletic teams from throughout the Midwest and beyond.
“This puts Springfield on the map for sports tourism,” Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher said at a groundbreaking ceremony on the city’s south side at the future site of the Scheels Sports Park at Legacy Pointe.
About 300 people from the area’s business community and units of local government turned out for the ceremony, capping a multi-year effort to create a 95-acre indoor and outdoor site expected to open by the end of 2025.
Initial site work was scheduled to begin Sept. 25.
Buscher, whose administration continued the work begun by former mayor Jim Langfelder’s administration on the unique public-private partnership, said the sports park is expected to bring $25 million a year in new spending to Springfield.
About 250,000 people from across the country are expected to visit Springfield each year to use the sports complex, increasing visitors overall by 10% to 15% after the first year of operation.
“You will have people coming to the community who have never been here and may never have come here,” Buscher said.
PHOTO BY LEE MILNER
“This puts Springfield on the map for sports tourism,” Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher said at a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the Scheels Sports Park at Legacy Pointe.
The complex also will be used by Springfield School District 186 athletic teams and other local youth sports organizations.
Buscher, who took office in May after defeating Langfelder in his bid for a third consecutive term, asked residents to welcome athletes and their families and encourage them to eat at local restaurants, stay at Springfield hotels, visit historic sites and patronize local shops.
Ryan McCrady, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance, helped to spearhead the project and said, “Sports tourism is a great way to separate people from their money, and we want to do it in Springfield to benefit our local businesses.”
McCrady, who has acted as a spokesperson for landowners Steve Luker and Dirk McCormick of Legacy Pointe Development, thanked Springfield-area elected officials who voted to take part in economic incentives to move the project forward.
He also thanked business leaders involved with the project “who are not afraid to dream big, take risks and gather a lot of parties together to help bring things to reality.
He also thanked business people such as Luker and McCormick “who are not afraid to dream big, take risks and gather a lot of parties together to help bring things to reality.
“This project will change how Springfield sees Springfield,” McCrady said. “It’ll change how other people see Springfield. It’s a sign that we can achieve big things in our community when we work together between the public sector, the private sector, all the large governmental bodies (and) the financial institutions.”
Sales taxes and hotel-motel taxes paid in the city over a 23-year period are expected to pay for half of the complex’s construction costs, totaling about $33.5 million.
The rest will be financed by the developers, who McCrady said have received financing commitments from about a dozen area banks, including Bank of Springfield.
The Springfield City Council recently dissolved the former South Central Business District to create a new one with a maximum 23-year lifespan that coincides with other economic incentives in the city’s agreement with Legacy Pointe Development.
The business district, about double the size of the previous district, includes the sports complex and imposes an additional 1% sales tax on purchases at Scheels and other businesses in the district for use by the city for infrastructure improvements in the district.
The development agreement also calls for more than 70% of the city’s portion of sales taxes in the business district, above a base of $1.48 million annually, to be reimbursed to the sports complex, which will be owned and operated by Legacy Pointe Development.
Springfield city government, as well as Sangamon County government, District 186, the Springfield Park District, Lincoln Land Community College, Capital Township, Springfield Airport Authority and other governmental units agreed to not collect additional property taxes associated with the construction for the life of the 23-year agreement.
All of the entities working together to get the project moving “really shows Springfield’s strength – how we can pull together if everybody keeps their mind on the goal, and that should be what’s in the best interest of the city and our residents moving forward,” Langfelder told Illinois Times before the groundbreaking.
“This is a decades-long project that Springfield always yearned for … and we appreciate all the partners that brought it to fruition,” Langfelder said.
McCrady said the sports complex “will be the best youth sports destination in Illinois because of the outdoor and indoor facilities, its proximity to interstates and central location in Illinois to attract athletes from across the region.”
The outdoor areas will include lighted turf fields for soccer, softball, rugby, lacrosse, football, baseball and other sports.
The site will include an air-supported, inflated and domed structure for year-round indoor use. It will cover 190,000 square feet and provide enough space for eight basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, performance areas and turf training areas, McCrady said.
Compared with the nearby Scheels store, the domed structure will be at least as tall and twice as long, he said.
Some city officials have said the groundbreaking and banks’ approval of financing for the sports park’s developers was delayed somewhat by the fact that the city, under Langfelder’s administration, didn’t pursue creation of a new business district.
But Langfelder, in response to questions from Illinois Times, said there were several factors that contributed to the delay, including the opinion of Jim Zerkle, the city attorney appointed by Langfelder, that the City Council could take action to extend the life of the former business district so it coincided with bond-related borrowing to pay project costs.
Buscher said the legal advice she received after taking office pointed to the need for dissolving the old district and creating a new district. The council didn’t have the power to extend the life of the former district, she said.
Langfelder said: “Few have fought harder for the sports complex than my administration – having to work through competing sports complex projects’ interests, changing dynamics, creating a tax-incentive package and successfully getting it approved through City Council.”