September 25, 2022

Planned $45M Frankenmuth indoor sports complex nearly quadruple size of Freeland SportsZone

FRANKENMUTH TOWNSHIP, MI — A $45 million indoor field of dreams could open here as…

FRANKENMUTH TOWNSHIP, MI — A $45 million indoor field of dreams could open here as early as 2023, officials say.

The combined medical and sports complex will house facilities for football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse.

Activities there will engage residents from across the region as well as visitors in town for tournaments, ramping up tourism in a community already known for it.

“This project is something Frankenmuth has been talking about and wanting for about 15 years,” said Bridget Smith, Frankenmuth city manager.

Planners say the multipurpose structure will measure a whopping 230,000 square feet, or nearly four times the size of Freeland SportsZone in Tittabawassee Township.

Frankenmuth municipal and economic development leaders involved in the project say the hybrid facility remains in “very early” planning stages, but progress with key decisions provided them enough confidence to present the project publicly for the first time during a Tuesday, Aug. 31, Saginaw County Board of Commissioners gathering.

“This tourism and medical development is a well-timed economic stimulator that will be transformational and benefit the entire county for years to come,” said Jamie Furbush, president and chief executive officer of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Furbush’s organization is among the project’s development team: a public-private partnership that includes the City of Frankenmuth and the community’s Downtown Development Authority.

Officials say the group is finalizing a deal to purchase the future site of the sports complex. The property today is a 36-acre soybean field on North Main Street in Frankenmuth Township, neighboring Frankenmuth city’s northern border.

Smith said the development group’s plans include annexing the township property, rolling it into the city’s map through an established agreement process between the neighboring municipalities.

The project’s early plans involve constructing at least two connected structures, she said.

A 130,000-square-foot facility will house an elevated indoor walking path; courts for basketball and volleyball; and conference space available for special events hosted at the complex. A connected 100,000-square-foot indoor dome will host football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball games.

Smith said plans for the medical component of the complex also remain in the early development stages.

Officials will seek a partner in the health care industry to move into the facility. It’s a setup similar to how planners developed Freeland SportsZone in 2007.

Today, a University of Michigan Health System MidMichigan Health Park site operates in a facility adjacent to Freeland SportsZone.

“It’s not necessarily going to be integrated in the sports facility,” Smith said of the plans for the medical branch of the Frankenmuth project. “Perhaps it will be in a wing, off to the side of the complex.”

Furbush acknowledged the comparison to Freeland SportsZone, located about 25 miles northwest of the planned Frankenmuth complex.

“It’s much, much bigger scale than that,” she said.

Freeland SportsZone measures 66,000-square-feet compared to the planned 230,000-square-foot Frankenmuth facility.

Smith and Furbush discussed the plan during a Saginaw County Board of Commissioners meeting where presenters lobbied for investment dollars.

Commissioners in the coming months will determine how to spend $37 million in American Rescue Plan Act stimulus money.

“This is the first time we’re really talking about this in a public forum,” Furbush said. “Because of the timing of this meeting, we wanted to bring this to the county now.”

Planners requested the county consider investing $4 million to $5 million of the federal stimulus in the Frankenmuth complex. The funds would support infrastructure costs — such as water and sewer system — qualified for the stimulus investment, Smith said.

She said the development group plans to fund the project largely using grants and private investment dollars.

Smith said the determination of the team of city and business development leaders provided her confidence they will raise the $45 million.

“Locally, there’s been a lot of interest and passion around an indoor facility that ideally would serve our residents and visitors,” she said. “You can only accomplish so much by sheer force of will. Eventually, you need more partners at the table with enlightened self interest, and that’s what we have now.”

Smith said the indoor medical and sports complex will provide a companion site to the outdoor sports facility Frankenmuth opened six years ago on Weiss near Jefferson. There, the city hosts youth football and soccer practices, and officials hope to develop the site with parking spaces and restrooms.

“Frankenmuth has a good reputation for operating softball and baseball tournaments,” Smith said. “As we look at ways to help keep tourism stable here year-’round, that indoor complex could be another asset.”

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