MISHAWAKA – Plans for a 350,000 square foot indoor sports facility for 40 to 50 acres near Juday Creek Golf Course are advancing that Mishawaka officials believe will turn out to be hotels, shops for years to come and restaurants in the area.
The estimated $ 50 million project would include eight courts that could be used for volleyball and basketball and two grass fields that could be used for indoor soccer, baseball and other activities, said Ken Prince, Mishawaka city planner.
What remains to be decided is whether it would make sense to add two ice rinks to the facility, Prince told the St. Joseph County Hotel-Motel Tax Department at a meeting Friday.
Card & Associates, an Indianapolis-based company that develops and operates other such facilities in the state, is conducting the study. At this point, however, no contracts have been signed, Prince said.
Youth travel sports have become an increasingly important part of the local tourism industry and indeed helped local hotels stay afloat during the pandemic when many of the Notre Dame University events and other activities were so limited, said Rob DeCleene, Managing Director Director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka.
Prior to the pandemic, youth sports tourism resulted in 38,549 hotel room nights in St. Joseph County. But even during the pandemic, youth hockey still generated 10,585 overnight stays last season, even with the Compton ice arena closed to public use.
“Youth sports have been an integral part for us,” said DeCleene. “We have worked hard to diversify the tourism industry over the past 10 years and it has paid off.”
A sports complex would further fuel this trend by providing more facilities that could be used to attract youth sports tournaments to the area, but it could also be used daily as a training facility for local sports programs, Prince said.
The big question now is whether the facility could also support two indoor ice rinks. The area started as a destination for youth hockey after the Compton Family Ice Arena opened in Notre Dame in 2011.
The two rinks in Notre Dame combined with the two in the Ice Box in South Bend gave the area an edge over most medium-sized markets when it comes to hosting such events, and it also helped keep the region central between Chicago and Detroit are located, Indianapolis and Cleveland, DeCleene said.
But Card & Associates is trying to figure out if two additional rinks could be too much of a good thing, making it difficult to justify the cost, Prince said.
While this part of the sports complex is still being analyzed, the study found that it will be difficult to justify the cost of building outdoor sports fields originally envisaged as part of the project.
Prince said the city would not operate the facility, but the money it collects from a portion of the hotel-motel tax would be used to cover debts associated with building the project, since such facilities are often operated in deficit .
“The purpose of the project is to improve the hotels and other businesses we already have in the community and to further diversify our economy,” said Prince.
Though the hotel-motel’s tax authority was initially surprised in 2019 when the state passed laws compelling it to give the Potawatomi Zoo and proposed sports complex some of the taxes it appears to collect from visitors to nearby hotels these problems now being a thing of the past.
Prince and Joshua Sisk, managing directors of the zoo, filed status reports with the tax authority like any other agency that receives money from the statewide bed tax. In fact, all parties worked with state lawmakers to raise the bed tax from 6% to 8% – more in line with the large Indiana communities.
The increase will provide a more secure source of funding for the zoo and sports complex and could be completed as early as July by St. Joseph County Council, so it can take effect as early as August, DeCleene said. Although there are still a lot of moving parts, at least the interior of the sports complex will move forward.
“The developer will ultimately decide what works for the market and ultimately provide room for the hotels in the community,” said Prince. “Breaking this fall is very optimistic, but I’m not ruling it out.”