Sketch courtesy of Goodwyn Mills & Cawood.
Aerial view of the planned sports complex.
Construction on the $70 million sports complex approved by the Hoover City Council in December is expected to begin in June, Hoover Executive Director Allen Pate said.
The 141,000-square-foot indoor event center, to be built next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, should be completed by May 2017, and the rest of the 120-acre Hoover Sportsplex likely will be finished by February 2018, Pate said.
The indoor facility will be able to accommodate a wide variety of sports, including a full-size football or soccer field, nine regulation-size basketball courts, 12 regulation-size volleyball courts or six indoor tennis courts. It also could be the site of trade shows up to 300 booths and could seat 2,400 for banquets and 5,000 for events with general seating, such as a graduation ceremony or concert, Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey said.
The indoor facility is slated to include a recreational walking track suspended 14 feet in the air, an athletic training and rehab center, a food court and a covered walkway connecting it to the Hoover Met.
It will not be tall enough to accommodate a football game with punting but could handle a 7-on-7 game, said Jeffrey Brewer, the regional president for Goodwyn Mills & Cawood, which created the architectural design.
The outdoor portion of the complex is supposed to include six NCAA regulation-size soccer/lacrosse/football fields, eight baseball/softball fields, 15 tennis courts, a 2-mile walking track, playground, splash pad and open area for tent tailgating.
City officials are waiting until after the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament in May to get started on the indoor center because it will take up part of the current Hoover RV Park, all of which is needed for the SEC tournament, Pate said.
In the meantime, an archaeological study already has been completed, and the city is doing environmental studies and drilling test holes for the foundation of the indoor event center, Pate said. It also will take several weeks to months to get a construction permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, he said.
The entire complex is to be built on 120 acres to the south and east of the Hoover Met. The city already owns 103 of the acres and would like to buy 17 more from the Hoover Board of Education to make the project work, Pate said.
All the outdoor fields would have artificial turf, Pate said. The project would add about 1,700 parking spaces, bringing the total number of parking spaces at the Met to about 5,000, he said.
The indoor facility is expected to take up about 32 of the current RV parking spaces at the Met, but more RV spaces are slated to be added elsewhere, potentially expanding the total number of RV spaces from 145 to 176, Pate said.
City officials say they expect the Hoover Sportsplex to be well used, particularly for sports tournaments that draw people from across Alabama and out of state.
“When we build this, it will be full,” Pate said. “There’s just that kind of demand out there.”
The Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the Hoover Sportsplex would have an economic impact of $27-33 million a year. That includes an estimated $13.2-16.8 million from the outdoor facilities and $14-17 million from the indoor facility. Some of that estimation was based on numbers from the Birmingham Crossplex, Pate said.
The 750,000-square-foot Birmingham Crossplex includes an indoor hydraulic track, indoor Olympic swimming pool and an arena with 20,000 square feet of floor space and seating for 5,000 spectators. The Crossplex brought an economic impact of $12.6 million its first year of operation, and that expanded to $20 million the second year, according to a memo from Tim Westhoven, Hoover’s assistant executive director.
The city of Hoover plans to borrow roughly $70 million to build its complex, which initially would increase the city’s annual debt service payments from $9.2 million to $11.6 million, Pate said. However, all of the city’s current debt is slated to expire in five years, so in 2023, the city’s annual debt payments would drop to $4.6 million, Pate said.
From an operational standpoint, the Hoover Sportsplex likely will require six new employees and have a total annual operating cost of $1,020,000, Pate said. The city expects to gain about $920,000 a year in direct revenue from facility rentals, so the net direct operational loss would be about $100,000 a year, Pate said.
However, 3 percent of the expected economic impact (sales taxes) would generate $900,000 a year, much more than offsetting the cost, he said.
Plus, Ivey said the facility is a great benefit to the quality of life in Hoover.
'Begging for these fields'
City officials have been working behind the scenes to find space for such an athletic complex for about two years, Pate said. The city has not added any athletic fields in 15 years, and new facilities are needed to handle the city’s growing population and attract bigger sports tournaments, he said.
Just in the past 10 years, the youth football program has grown from 200 children to 1,000 children, while lacrosse has sprung up from nothing to more than 500 children now, Pate said.
Hoover also has 1,800 children involved in its fall and spring soccer programs and 1,300 playing baseball, Pate said. There are 100 adult softball teams playing on three fields at Spain Park, with four games per night on each field and no time available for practices, he said.
“Parks and Recreation has lagged behind, and it’s time to catch up,” Pate said.
Several representatives from Hoover youth sports leagues said this facility is much needed and long overdue in Hoover.
“We’ve been beating this drum for the past 10 years, begging for these fields,” said Rickey Phillips, president of the Hoover Parks and Recreation Board. “This right here is a godsend.”
John Parker, president of the Hoover Softball Association, said the recreational softball program has grown from 150 girls to 325 in the past five years, and the number of travel softball teams has risen from three to 10, now including 110 players, he said.
“The facilities we have are old, and there’s not enough space,” Parker said.
Plus, a facility like this, when combined with existing softball fields in Hoover, will allow the city to be host for more softball tournaments and teams coming from other areas, Parker said.
Right now, Hoover has only four softball fields big enough for tournament play, and they can handle only about 35 to 40 teams, Parker said. So when tournaments come to town, they have to spread outside of Hoover to fields in places such as Vestavia Hills, Trussville and Hueytown, he said.
With this complex, Hoover will be able to handle tournaments with 180 to 200 teams and likely could even get the World Series, which has 400 to 500 teams, he said.
“We can fill the hotels. We can fill the restaurants. They can buy gas – all in one city,” he said.
Hoover’s softball fields are booked 9 ½ months out of the year with tournaments, and even more want to come, he said.
Richard Bisso, president of the Hoover Soccer Club, said the families that travel with Hoover soccer teams spend $500 to $800 per family per weekend when they go out of town.
“I think it would be outstanding to have that here in our community,” he said. “There is something to sports tourism.”
Requests to delay vote
Several Hoover residents asked the City Council to delay a vote on the project back in December to give residents more time to study and comment on such an expensive project.
Hoover resident Dustin Chandler said unless council members could honestly say they are providing the Hoover school system enough money to fund a top-notch school system, they should postpone the vote.
Councilman John Greene was the only council member to vote against the project. Greene said the sports complex would be an outstanding addition to the city, but the timing for a vote back in December was not right. He recommended the council postpone its vote until January, but no one would second his motion to table the vote. Instead, the project passed on a 6-1 vote.
Greene said questions still remained about whether the city is providing enough money for its school system, and until those questions are resolved, he is not in favor of such a large expenditure.
Pate said it’s still undetermined exactly which Hoover sports leagues will have access to the new fields and indoor facility at the Sportsplex.
“It’s going to be a balancing act between the local teams and kids versus bringing in outside tournaments,” Pate said. “We certainly want the locals to have an opportunity to use it, but on the other hand, we do want to bring in some revenue.”
Pate said he soon will be traveling to look at similar complexes in Lake Point, Ga., Orlando and the Gatlinburg, Tenn., area and talking to officials there about facility utilization and other aspects of their complexes.