Public 'Pitches' Ideas On Youth Sports Development Opportunities

By Emma Koch
By Rachel Martin

July 30, 2013 Updated Jul 30, 2013 at 11:15 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – There's $47 million in Legacy Fund money to be split four ways—one way is Youth Sports Development.

"There's $6 million available for this project, but that's to be matched on a one or 2 to 1 basis, so there's an opportunity for a project or multiple projects around $20 million,” said Al Moll, Director Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation.

But what could those projects be? Multiple sports organizations pitched their ideas Tuesday night to consultants who will conduct a market and economic impact study, then make recommendations to city officials.

The goal is to make Fort Wayne the center for youth sports regionally and nationally.

Caleb Kimmel, Executive Director of the World Baseball Academy, says he would like to expand the Ash Center into a world-class youth baseball complex to serve as a hub for the many leagues around the area.

"We've actually maxed out facilities at the Ash Center, we're actually turning business away. So, it's not a matter of 'build it and they'll come.’ It's ‘they're here’ so we better build it and expand,” Kimmel said with a laugh.

Brett Nanna with Three Rivers Aquatics Club wants to see an Olympic-sized swimming pool built on the City's north side, complete with diving platforms. The only 50 meter pool in town is at South Side High School.

"Our competitive divers travel two hours out of the city to Indianapolis to do platform diving right now. This is a great opportunity to not only build the talent, attract more people to those sports, but financially bring a lot of additional revenue back to the city,” said Nanna.

If you ask Oliver Reelsen, he'd choose to spend Legacy Money on a turf soccer field at Fort Wayne Sport Club, which he says could bring in $250,000 annually.

"We are missing out on opportunities of playing in early Spring, in bad weather, or late Fall, to other cities in the are. So a turf soccer field would be on our wish list,” Reelsen said.

City officials anticipate the study to be complete four weeks from now, with final recommendations by October.

The public is invited to offer input about youth sports growth opportunities for Fort Wayne at a public meeting, 5:30 - 7 pm on Tuesday, July 30. The meeting will be held in the Omni Room, 200 E. Berry Street, Citizens Square.

As a key component of the Legacy Fort Wayne initiative led by Mayor Tom Henry, the City of Fort Wayne has engaged a consulting team to examine the market potential for youth sports in the Fort Wayne community. The ultimate goal of this study will be to identify youth sports growth opportunities for Fort Wayne, recommend future sports facility needs and suggest ways to expand sports marketing efforts both regionally and nationally. The consulting team will be in Fort Wayne on July 30 to gather community input.

In April, Aquarius Sports and Entertainment was chosen to conduct the Youth Sports Community Assessment and Market Potential Study. It's anticipated the study will be completed by the end of the year.

"This is a great next step in our efforts to bring transformational change to our community. We're seeing positive momentum in youth sports, and we want to enhance our efforts to be a national leader in youth activities," said Mayor Henry. "It's critical that we continue to invest in ourselves to position Fort Wayne for future growth and success. Legacy is a unique opportunity to come together to make a positive difference."

Legacy Fort Wayne was created by proceeds from the sale of the City Light Utility to Indiana Michigan Power and its funds are being used to create transformational change in the community.

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