CORNELIUS — A prospective sports complex could make the Lake Norman area an athletic destination for residents and tournament participants.
Sports Village was the topic at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce’s Focus Friday discussion March 21. Developers Mike Clapp and Jay Martin presented the concept, which includes eight indoor hardwood courts, an equipped fitness center, a nutrition-focused food service area and a family fun zone for children’s activities. There is also a plan to add a hockey rink or synthetic fields.
In addition to basketball, Martin said they could put a mat down and have karate or they could put up nets and have volleyball or pickleball. Unlike a pool that is just a pool, the facility could have many uses, he said.
“Our idea is to bring this to the entire community,” Martin said. “This is something we recognize as a definite need in this environment.”
They are under contract for a parcel off Exit 28 near Wilburn Auto Body Shop and south of the new Life Fellowship Church. They hope to get town approval within the next few months and start construction. But since the early planning stages, Martin said they have been getting input from Cornelius staff.
A big draw is the potential for a large economic impact. It can be used as a convention center for events, like the chamber expo, but can also cater to regional and national tournaments.
Visit Lake Norman Executive Director Sally Ashworth said amateur sports make up 52 percent of the $21.8 million of the estimated economic impact brought into the area, predominately through basketball and baseball.
Martin said he hopes the complex’s location can bring teams from Florida to Pennsylvania. With each team, comes players and their families all spending money in the area.
“I’ve noticed the tournament market stops after the summertime,” said Vinny Picano, director of sales at Country Inn & Suites Lake Norman. “This is fantastic to be able to increase the economy during the winter months.”
Logan Kosmalski, of Pro Skills Basketball, said it’s an advantage that the tournament can be held at one facility rather than driving from place to place. And that's true for area residents using the facility.
With plans for retail, offices and other parcels that may come in later phases, Clapp envisions residents coming to exercise, getting a haircut or doing work while their child practices. Or in between practices, youth can get tutored or take music lessons. Then they can have a healthy dinner as a family.
“The key to our plan is we think families want to be active and spend that time together with other members of the community,” Martin said.
They have also planned a nonprofit called Teammates For Life, which pairs athletes with special needs students, whether they are low-income or in a wheelchair or have other circumstances. Martin said teammates share a closer bond than usual Big Brother, Big Sister mentor programs and hopes everyone feels equal.
During the meeting, attendees expressed concern regarding traffic other than simply having ample parking.
“With any new development, they will have conditions and there will be requirements for them to make improvements, but at the same time, as we desire economic development, we can’t put the entire burden on them. There’s a balancing act,” Cornelius Planning Director Wayne Herron said, adding the town has traffic and congestion plans in the works. “We may have to put limited conditions, but understand we’re going to have a little more congestion in the meantime to have this sort of positive economic development.”
There was also concern of competition from a recreation center slated for Cornelius in the next five years. Developers said instead of competition, it could be a better partnership for tournaments that need additional space. The Sports Village wants to come in the near future and hopes to offer more specialized coaching and training.
Clapp and Martin hope Sports Village comes to fruition in the coming months and continue to seek sponsorships.