The planned sports complex for Crawford County will be marketable and financially fit, according to two completed feasibility studies, as project stakeholders envision the facility to improve the region’s health and economic outlook.
Crawford ranks as the 43rd healthiest county in Ohio for 2015, according to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.
But the collaborative between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute also ranked Crawford 64th in the state for estimates of its future health based on health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and physical environment factors.
Delaware County, which borders the southern part of Morrow County, was first in both rankings.
Additionally, Delaware’s per capita income was $67,309, the highest in the state for 2013, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.
Crawford County had the 62nd highest per capita income at $33,642.
And Gary Frankhouse believes there’s a correlation between the two.
The executive director of the Crawford County Partnership for Education and Economic Development said the sports complex will improve the quality of life for Crawford, while bringing in tourism, new residents and business.
“I think it becomes an industry in our county,” he said. “It’s way more than sports.”
The December 2010-released “Crawford:20/20 Vision” initiative, which was released by the Frankhouse-managed private nonprofit, called for the completion of a sports complex near state Route 30 by 2020.
The partnership didn’t want to make wild guesses about the feasibility of the complex, he said.
The Crawford County Partnership hired Don Schumacher, executive director of the Cincinnati-based National Association of Sports Commissions to conduct marketability and financial feasibility studies.
The NASC conducted the studies for $39,000 total. The marketability study was finished in April 2015, while the financial study was completed last month. Costs for the studies were paid by the partnership along with the city of Galion, the Community Foundation for Crawford County and the Galion Community Education Foundation.
“We wanted to do our due diligence,” Frankhouse said.
The NASC is the governing body of the industry and not a developer, he added.
“A developer is probably going to tell us, ‘yes you should do it’,” Frankhouse said. “Because he want’s to build it. Don’s not going to do that because if he tells us to do it and it doesn’t impact the sports industry in the right way (then) that’s not good.”
In a phone interview, Schumacher said he’s determined that other similar projects across the country were not feasible after completing the studies.
“This is not a science,” he said. “It’s kind of an art form.”
In October 2014, the partnership and Schumacher visited every sports-related facility in the county including churches with gyms, schools and YMCAs. They also had meetings with county stakeholders that had an interest in baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer and the senior population.
The marketability study highlighted how the county didn’t provide enough facilities for families and children outside of high school, and also revealed quality of life issues for seniors because there weren’t any places to walk.
“He recommended that we look at a complex with basketball courts that convert to volleyball, walking track and a turf field,” Frankhouse said.
But the complex would also offer opportunities for gymnastics and other mat sports. There would be a total eight weekends for basketball and volleyball tournaments.
The financial feasibility study estimated that the the complex would make a profit of $20,000 in its first year.
The study had the complex open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays; and noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The consultant anticipated the facility to be utilized at about 40 percent during the weekdays from 6 a.m. up until 8 a.m. with no usage happening until 3 p.m. Frankhouse said it’s a conservative outlook.
“We’re trying to look at the worst-case scenario,” he said.
The study also looked at concessions, which account for the margin of profit for every dollar sold. Concessions would double during weekend tournaments.
Schumacher said he had some concerns with whether county residents would rent the facility because it’s not normally done now.
Basketball courts would be rented at $40 per hour, while the field is $100 per hour, Frankhouse said. In comparison, the chosen rates are below the national average of $50 per hour for courts and $125 per hour for fields.
While those figures could appear intimidating to some families, he said, the costs can become affordable in larger groups. For example, an athletic club of 10 juveniles would only have to pay $4 per hour for the courts, while paying $10 per hour to use the field. There would also be incentives and discounts depending on how frequent the courts would be needed by any particular group.
The financial feasibility study does not consider a membership model, but there could be one in the future after an ownership structure is determined, Frankhouse said.
Schumacher said the complex would be profitable if there was no debt from the facility’s construction. Building the facility could cost anywhere from $4 million -$8 million.
Frankhouse said the next step of the project is to determine the funding sources before settling on the size and desired amenities of the facility.
The partnership is now looking at five acres of land, owned by Galion, located adjacent to Peco Park on state Route 598. The potential site is also located near the state route’s intersection with Brandt Road, where the 70-bed Sleep Inn hotel is expected to be built.
“It’s the best potential site identified to date,” said Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary. “Crawford County needs types of development that make our community more interesting; more attractive to younger families and people who are fitness-oriented.”
Schumacher said its a county-wide project, but it makes sense for the complex to be located in the southeast corner of Crawford County to attract people from the Mansfield area.
In addition to funding, the ownership, management and staffing of the complex will need to be determined this year. Some explored-options include the appointment of a parks and recreation department as the owner or the creation of a port authority, which could have a management agreement with the YMCA.
Frankhouse emphasized the collaboration between the YMCAs and the complex is critical for success.
Terry Gribble, executive director of the Galion YMCA, agreed.
“The Galion YMCA will manage the sports complex if it makes sense for us to oversee it,” he said. “If it goes hand in hand with what we do here at the YMCA, we will manage it. The sports complex will be great for the community and Crawford County by bringing more people to the area along with tourism; more people will come to this area to spend money. It may also improve the health and wellness of area residents.”
Gribble said he’s researching how other YMCAs have managed externally-owned properties. But the majority of those properties are typically owned by a municipality, which is different from a for-profit facility.
“There’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said.
The YMCA may not be able to meet staffing needs of the complex, but Frankhouse said they have connections to Ohio University through Schumacher, who is an adjunct professor at the school, and with university officials who run the sports administration facility management program to provide qualified employees.
“We have those channels to the connect to the resources to run the facility,” he said.
The partnership will be developing a campaign strategy to raise funds. Potential funding sources include state, foundations and private donors, Frankhouse said, but it’s ultimately a community effort.
“The ball is in our court now,” he said.
Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.