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Study: Dauphin County sportsplex could cost around $16M

By , - Last modified: October 26, 2012 at 11:17 AM

After 13 months, a multi-use sports complex study supported by $70,000 in Dauphin County gaming grant funds has been completed.

Washington, D.C.-based Brailsford & Dunlavey, the firm hired by the nonprofit Mid State Alliance, projects the cost to develop a complex in Dauphin County at nearly $13 million in today's dollars, according to the final submitted report.

That cost excludes land acquisition and is based on 13 outdoor fields and a 7,560-square-foot clubhouse. Land deals are projected to add $2.4 million to $3.6 million to that total.

"B&D believes a sports complex anchored by a local nonprofit organization can cater to an underserved local recreation market and host approximately 40 weekend tournaments annually," the report said.

Area club sport officials have expressed a desire for a facility that could offer playing surfaces for practice and games year-round, as well as the option to stage major tournaments and championships to attract teams from all over the East Coast.

During the feasibility study phase, the firm met with parents, coaches, players, potential business partners and other stakeholders. B&D also conducted a market analysis of the area and studied national and regional facilities.

The report said the preferred location would be between the Interstate 81 and I-76 corridors — in the central part of Dauphin County just above I-81 or in the southwestern area between Harrisburg and Hershey. There are 600,000 residents within a 30-minute drive of those areas and nearly 31 million people within 150 miles, according to the study.

The firm concluded the county is deficient in rectangle and baseball diamonds, but there are several for-profit indoor facilities in the market.

At least 60 acres would be needed for the recommended eight rectangle fields — four with lighted and synthetic surfaces — and five baseball fields to satisfy weekend tournament play for baseball and softball teams. B&D also recommended 900 parking spaces, plus a family pavilion area and playground structure.

An indoor fieldhouse for competitive competition was not recommended in the report. That addition could add as much as $23.9 million more to the project in today's dollars, according to B&D.

The firm is projecting that a facility could be up and running by 2016 and that it would take about three years to get revenue in line with expenses. Primary revenue drivers include tournament income, concession sales, advertising and sponsorship agreements, membership fees and programming.

Tournaments could generate attendance of more than 100,000 people annually, according to the report.

"We have analyzed this and have been speculating for a long time," said Steve Mizak, president of the MSA. "Now we have a pretty good plan to implement. We're really looking forward to this."

The next step will be identifying members for a fundraising committee, he said. That could take four to six weeks.

The thought all along has been that this facility would be developed through public and private dollars.

The study laid out several operations models and recommended a public/nonprofit model, where MSA could operate the facility with county support with land acquisition, or some other form of startup cost, and enter into a long-term ground lease with the nonprofit.

Day-to-day operation of the sports complex could be managed by a professional management team that reports to the nonprofit's board of directors.

"We're done talking about it," Mizak said. "We now know it's a good idea."

This type of facility could mean huge dollar signs for the local economy.

However, he added there has been no commitment yet to execute on anything recommended in the plan. MSA will look to form its fundraising arm and see how things go before coming back to the county for further assistance, he said.

Lauren Bowers, a spokeswoman for the county commissioners, said the board will wait for more information before committing to anything.

"It's really in the early stages," she said.

The report identifies general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, state level tourism and redevelopment programs, hotel tax proceeds, local gaming share revenue, intergovernmental agreements, naming rights, private and foundation grants and private contributions are possible funding streams.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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