What might an indoor sports facility mean for Loudoun?
A $5 million indoor sports facility would pay for itself in tax revenue alone from just two sports tournaments a year over the course of 20 years, according to a study conducted by SportsImpacts, a sports market research analytics firm.
Ideally the location would be somewhere in eastern Loudoun near hotels and transportation, according to Brian Jenkins, director of business strategy and research.
The facility would likely host more than two events per year. Economic impact of the venue could extend beyond tax revenue, to include ticket sales, concessions and other streams of revenue at the facility.
Recently Visit Loudoun received $26,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to complete phase two of the study, which will focus on location, competition and various other aspects of the project that could determine success.
The decision to conduct the study was made when Patrick Kaler, the ex-president and CEO of Visit Loudoun, sat down with Jenkins. They noticed hotel bookings slow down toward the end of summer and stay low throughout the winter.
After discussing some options, Kaler decided to bring in SportsImpacts.
Because Loudoun converts 80 percent of its sports leads into booked business, and indoor sports are generally held during winter months, the best solution seemed to be a sports facility. SportsImpacts helped Visit Loudoun make a business case for that.
Figuring out how to fund the project and picking potential locations are the two major concerns right now. Jenkins could see any number of funding approaches. He said it would all depend on the developer who planned to build the facility.
Tony Howard believes the project could be worthwhile, should the proper proposal come forward.
He used his common refrain, "The devil, as always, is in the details.”
So who else has done this?
In 2007 Boo Williams, a well known summer basketball organizer and the current chairman of boys' basketball with the Amateur Athletic Union, decided to open a basketball facility in Hampton, Va.
His group started construction on a $13.5 million sportsplex that would house his annual AAU basketball tournament, which at that point was already bringing in more than six figures from endorsements from sneaker companies.
According to an article in the Virginian Pilot from 2007, "He lined up six investors from the region and talked the city of Hampton into partnering. Williams said they talked with eight banks before Wachovia signed on. 'Most of the banks we approached thought we were crazy.'”
Every year the facility brings in $2.8 million in hotel spending, according to a prepared statement from Hampton city government, and there are plans for an $11 million expansion to the facility soon.
“In growing communities like ours, there’s always the need for large indoor sports facilities. We support Visit Loudoun’s efforts. Having these types of amenities in Loudoun adds to our ‘quality of place,’ which strengthens our attractiveness as a world-class business location," said Buddy Rizer, director of economic development.
Something more modest would likely be in the plans for a Loudoun facility, something maybe half the size of the Boo Williams Sportsplex, with fewer bells and whistles.
"You don't need the coup de gras facility," said Jenkins. "You literally need the shell and the assets inside, and that's it."
The building could cost anywhere from around $3 million to upward of $12 million, depending on the size of the facility, according to the study commissioned by SportsImpacts.
This facility is not meant to stage the Final Four in basketball or a major indoor rock concert.
Instead the plan for the facility would be intended to house youth volleyball, basketball and cheer and dance competitions, as well as small collegiate sports tournaments and even graduation ceremonies.
"Regarding indoor facilities, only four of the 22 venues [in Louduon] are listed as capable of hosting popular sports such as basketball and volleyball. Furthermore, among those four facilities, only two of the four have adequate bleacher seating," read the report.
There were five developers who immediately showed interest, after a presentation was given on the subject, according to Jenkins.