Photo by Jon Anderson
Gary Ivey Friends of Hoover 2-8-16
Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey talks to the Friends of Hoover group about the city's planned $70 million Sportsplex next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium during a luncheon meeting at The Egg & I restaurant in Riverchase on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016.
Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey got a warm reception today as he presented plans for the city of Hoover’s $70 million Sportsplex to the Friends of Hoover group.
The mayor gave a brief explanation about the sports complex, which is scheduled to be built next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, and then took questions from the 20 or so people who showed up at The Egg and I restaurant in Riverchase for his talk.
Ivey talked about how the Sportsplex will be unique for Alabama.
Plans now call for six soccer/lacrosse/football fields, eight baseball/softball fields, 15 tennis courts, a 2-mile walking track, playground, splash pad and a 141,000-square-foot indoor facility that can be used for sports, trade shows, meetings, banquets and graduation ceremonies.
Photo by Jon Anderson/sketch by Goodwyn Mills & Cawood
Hoover Sportsplex 13
The 141,000-square-foot indoor facility slated to be part of the $70 million Hoover Sportsplex will include a sports training and rehab center and food court.
The indoor facility will be able to accommodate a full-size football or soccer field, nine regulation-size basketball courts, 12 regulation-size volleyball courts or six indoor tennis courts.
“There’s nothing around here like this — not in the state of Alabama,” Ivey said. “We think it’s an incredible asset to the city … It offers everything to everybody.”
Diana Knight, a resident of the Trace Crossings community in Hoover who attended the mayor’s talk today, said she thinks the Sportsplex will be a great addition to the city that should bring a lot of visitors.
Ivey agreed and said there are close to 3,000 hotel rooms and a couple of hundred restaurants within five miles of the Sportsplex site that should serve visitors well.
As a parent of a girl who plays lacrosse, Knight said she’s also glad to see some new lacrosse fields coming to Hoover. Some of the current fields used for lacrosse turn into mud holes when it rains, she said.
Ivey said all the outdoor fields at the Sportsplex would have artificial turf, which will drain better.
Knight asked if city officials had considered putting an outdoor competition track in the complex, and Ivey said city officials considered it but determined that outdoor track events don’t draw crowds as big as the other sports do.
Ross Bridge resident Casey Middlebrooks said news reports in recent years had talked about health dangers associated with some artificial turf fields and asked what type surface the fields will have.
Ivey said he’s not the turf expert, but city officials were aware of those news reports. They checked into the issue and determined there would be no health issues with the type of turf they plan to use, he said.
Riverchase resident Arnold Singer asked the mayor to explain about how the sports complex will be financed. Ivey said the city plans to borrow money to pay for it. He said all of the city’s current debt is set to expire in six years and that the city’s annual debt payments will drop from $10 million to $4 million at that time.
Bluff Park resident Kerry Leasure said her three children aren’t into sports, but she thinks the Sportsplex will be a great facility.
“I’m really excited about the splash pad,” she said. “We’ve been driving up to Gardendale because they have a really good one up there.”
Leasure said she hopes the city now can find $70 million for a third high school.
Georgia Pearson, another Bluff Park resident, asked the mayor if city officials have looked at how similar facilities in other states have fared.
Ivey said Hoover officials already have been to visit similar facilities in Georgia and Florida and will be traveling to South Carolina to see another one on Tuesday. City officials want to find out what is working for these other facilities and what is not before they begin construction, he said.
Right now, construction is set to begin in June following the completion of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament in May. The indoor sports complex is slated for completion in May 2017, and the rest of the complex should be finished a year after that, Ivey said.
Pearson also noted that this sports complex is very close to the Cahaba River and asked what is being done to protect the Cahaba.
Ivey said the city tries to be very protective of the Cahaba. There are several hundred acres between the sports complex and the river that should help protect the Cahaba, he said. He also noted a detention pond that is shown on the city’s designs for the 120-acre complex.
Ivey said the indoor complex will be big enough to host trade shows with 300 10-by-10-foot booths, banquets of up to 2,400 people and events such as high school graduation ceremonies that can hold up to 5,000 people.
Ivey said he’s heard a lot of complaints from people about having to go outside of the city for Hoover and Spain Park graduation ceremonies, and this should provide another option.
Hoover and Spain Park high schools typically hold their graduation ceremonies during the same week as the SEC Baseball Tournament. Ivey acknowledged that the SEC tournament and graduation ceremonies at the Sportsplex likely could not be held at the same time, but he thinks school officials would be willing to make adjustments to move graduation ceremonies to another time.
“We certainly can’t move the SEC. They’re a lot bigger than us,” he said.
City officials also still have work to do to determine how much the sports complex can be used by Hoover youth and adult sports leagues for their regular recreational play, versus using the complex for tournaments that draw teams from outside the city, Ivey said.