Schools’ losses could be sports community’s gain

 Posted on: August 15 2016

Olympic fever, albeit short term and every four years, can be a big driver in sports facilities. As we’ve seen Team USA excel in the pool and in gymnastics, expect little boys and girls everywhere (and their parents) to have visions of gold medals dancing in their heads.

These expected booms in these sports (and more) can mean an increase in building these facilities—to meet the demands of more people who want to use state-of-the-art equipment and venues.

An article in the South Bend Tribune reflects that demand—in the case of two northern Indiana cities, Elkhart and Plymouth, their schools’ facilities are aging (and a YMCA has closed) but those pools could be replaced by larger sports complexes to be used not just for students but for regional meets.

If plans go through, northern Indiana would become home to two sports centers that could draw a variety of athletes, from soccer players to swimmers to fitness buffs. Both cities are planning to include a pool that could be the host for sanctioned competition, and both areas recently received funds from the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative to jump start these project.

Elkhart, just east of South Bend, is looking at a 66-meter pool with eight or 10 lanes and diving board, plus fitness center and community center with a price tag of around $50 million.  Plymouth, which is due south of South Bend, is looking at a 25-yard pool with 10 lanes and diving board, linked to an existing fitness center with therapy pool and four-lane, 25-meter recreation pool. The complex also would include two indoor soccer fields and another indoor field, and two outdoor soccer fields. Cost: $13 million.

South Bend and St. Joseph County has its own vision for sports complexes. Visit South Bend Mishawaka is studying whether the area could support an indoor complex with a 200-meter track and basketball courts, which could be adapted for other sports. The complex would be used to bring in travel teams and fill hotel rooms on non-Notre Dame football weekends.

Right now Notre Dame’s on-campus ice arena draws enough from its youth hockey tournaments to book an extra 10,000 room nights each year, according to Rob DeCleene, the director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. And as the number of hotel rooms in the South Bend area is expected to grow by 25 percent in the near future, the area is looking to fill those rooms with youth sports.  DeCleene told the Tribune that a new study shows the area could support an indoor sports complex with a 200-meter track and eight basketball courts that could be adapted for volleyball, wrestling, dancing and other sports.

Olympic fever can turn into a demand for more, better youth athletic facilities. It’s up to each region to make sure they can keep up with that demand in the near future.


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