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Sports complex feasibility report

A consultant's report says a $38.3 million sports complex on Madison's Southeast Side can make a profit and generate millions of dollars in spending and produce hotel stays.

Madison and partners can create a $38.3 million sports complex with indoor and outdoor fields and parking on 74 acres on the Southeast Side that will turn a profit and boost the economy, according to a new report prepared for the Madison Area Sports Commission.

The city has been working with Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison and the sports commission for several years on how to develop city and tribal lands near the interchange of the Beltline and Interstate 39-90.

The tribe is considering a hotel and casino expansion, DeJope Heritage Center and involvement in the sports complex.

The effort has great potential to create a strong working relationship with the tribe, create much-needed sports facilities with lighting and restrooms for use by city residents, and support a tourism industry that brings visitor dollars to the community, city parks superintendent Eric Knepp said.

The $70,000 study, jointly funded by the city and tribe, “confirmed what we know about local demand,” Knepp said. “It confirmed Madison is a destination in the region with real potential to attract visitors.”

Spokespersons for Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison and the sports commission could not be reached for comment.

The sports complex concept, however, is preliminary and no decisions have been made about if, how or when to move forward. The city has not budgeted money for such a project.

The indoor complex would include a 15,188-square-foot structure with a family entertainment center and supporting amenities such as a lobby, office space, and food and beverage options, a 101,865-square-foot dome with full-size, multipurpose turf field, batting cages and pitching tunnels, and a training area, according to the study by Sports Facilities Advisory of Clearwater, Florida.

The indoor facilities and 468 parking spaces would be located on six acres of tribal land, Knepp said.

The outdoor facilities include six artificial-turf multipurpose fields; four multipurpose grass fields; support buildings; and 960 parking spaces for local activities and regional tournaments on 67.5 acres owned by the city.

The complex would generate $2.1 million in revenue and operate at a $227,000 deficit in its first year, but revenue would grow to $3.8 million and leave a $490,000 profit by the fifth year, the 90-plus-page study predicts.

The facilities would mix local recreation and event tourism business models that can be sustainable as a single, combined operation, it says.

The complex would also generate $10.6 million in direct spending in its first year and $15.8 million by the fifth year, the study says. It would help create nearly 18,000 hotel room nights in the first year and nearly 27,000 room nights by the fifth year, it says.

The sides have not determined how costs would be shared or resolved other issues of traffic, timing and phasing, Knepp said, saying, “That’s the next stage.”

The Ho-Chunk Nation, which has nearly 48 acres next to its casino near the Beltline-Interstate interchange, is exploring a hotel and casino expansion with multiple food and beverage facilities, a DeJope Heritage Center that could have exhibition areas, a great room, artist studios, educational programming spaces, retail and cafe, and a parking garage.

The city’s properties in the area include 82.2 acres envisioned for a community park, 43.5 acres with no identified use, and the 36-hole Yahara Hills golf course on 451 acres.

The possible developments could help the golf course by improving traffic flow and safety and attracting more visitors, Knepp said.

In 2014, the tribe hired a local planning firm, Urban Assets, to help identify potential uses for its property, and later began working with the city to explore a rare collaboration to develop adjacent city and tribal lands.

Last year, the sports commission engaged Sports Facilities Advisory to do an analysis of new indoor and outdoor sports, recreation and tournament/event assets.

The consultant’s study will be presented soon to the city Park Commission and City Council Executive Committee, and discussions with the tribe will continue on funding and other issues, Knepp said. Ultimately, city and tribal policy makers will decide if a significant capital investment makes sense, he said.


Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.