MISHAWAKA — Thirty-eight million dollars does not buy as much nowadays.
That fact was apparent Tuesday night as Mishawaka Redevelopment Commission members took their first steps to bring a regional sports facility to the area.
They and the developer originally thought Mishawaka Fieldhouse could be built all at once, but rising costs have now prompted them to divide the project into two phases instead.
The first phase of the project — consisting of 10 indoor courts for a variety of sports — is planned to be built on Veterans Parkway north of Douglas Road on 49 acres the city has provided. Four baseball fields and future expansion for the possibility of ice rinks are now set as a second phase that is not yet determined.
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In the works since 2015, members of Visit South Bend/Mishawaka joined sports facility developer and operator Andy Card, CEO of Card & Associates, and representatives of Baker Tilley to reveal the details of the plan going forward.
The first phase will include the 191,000 square-foot fieldhouse with 10 courts, an area for two indoor turf fields and a 14,000-square-foot tenant building.
The commission approved resolutions to set the 49-acre tract over for the project, to approve a development agreement with Card & Associates for the building and operation of the facility, for the new TIF district that will be used to capture the tax revenue to help pay the bonds for the facility, and other bond measures.
The city will be undergoing a series of regulatory steps and meetings that will include Common Council approvals in the coming two months, with a targeted bond sale for the project in late January.
Officials said the hope is to begin construction in February, with a projected finish date in March or April 2024.
If you build it, they will come
A regional sports facility here is expected to generate 30 to 40 events a year that will bring in tournaments of youth and children’s teams, Card said. His company has been developing facilities like the proposed Mishawaka project since 2015. The list includes the Pacers Athletic Center in Westfield, The Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville and a facility in Lebanon.
Card said the Mishawaka site will draw sports tournaments from the Chicago area, bringing in teams, families and the associated economic benefits of those tourney attendees renting rooms in area hotels and motels and spending money at local restaurants and businesses.
Card says the facility could bring in as much as $65 million in new revenue once the project is up and running.
“This will be our fifth project (in Indiana), and we have 14 more in the pipeline throughout the country,” Card told the commission. “This is what we do. We design, we build and help get financing for these facilities. What makes us different is that we have figured out how to be sustainable and do what we say we’re going to do for the community.”
Visit South Bend/Mishawaka Executive Director Jeff Jarnecke and former leaders at the organization concluded in studies as early as 2015 that the area has many youth sports events during the warmer seasons, but the area was missing a large indoor facility to handle similar events in the winter months.
“So, as you can see, we’re talking generally on three seasons,” Jarnecke said. “We’re missing that indoor facility that will deliver sports tourism on a national level in St. Joseph County. … We’re missing that professional operator that can come in with an economic development plan mindset in place to help deliver more visitors through sports tourism.”
He pointed out that youth sports events, such as youth hockey and soccer tournaments, kept visitors coming to the area even during the pandemic.
Add to that the basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports tournaments, Jarnecke said, and the Mishawaka sports facility could generate some $34 million in annual economic impact with an associated 22,500 additional hotel-motel room rentals annually.
“It feels like the right product at this point to have one more asset within the arsenal to support tourism, to support economic vitality, and to further support the hypothesis and, frankly, to prove that youth sport wins in St. Joseph County,” he said.
Paying for the project
The project is exploring the use of taxable lease rental bonds. To pay the annual bonds, the funding sources would include about $1 million in hotel-motel tax revenue, the tax money generated from the consolidated TIF area and a portion of the operating revenue from the facility operator.
The state’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative — or READI — further helped the project with a $5 million grant awarded in September by the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Development Authority.
The money was part of $40 million in state money aimed at jump-starting a wide variety of projects in St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties as part of READI’s mission to improve the quality of life throughout the state.
The Redevelopment Commission and the Common Council will have hearings over the next two months to approve the bond issuance related to the project.
Email Tribune staff writer Greg Swiercz at [email protected]