With the recent announcement of the construction of a new $13 million downtown Columbus arena, city leaders are positioning Columbus to attract dozens of sporting and other events as soon as the facility opens in December, 2009.
Amateur sports tournaments have generated millions of dollars for Columbus. So why not bring in more of what works? That’s the thinking of Columbus Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Wilt.
“The market for indoor softball tournaments, baseball, soccer, wrestling… you name it, there’s a market for it as far as youth sports,” he said.
Wilt says the $13 million arena, being built and operated by the private company, Barofsky Associates of Chicago, is a prime pickup for a cash-strapped city during tough economic times.
“This is a private development and this was our goal. This is a very hard thing for a town. We’re getting something that is very difficult to land from a private development standpoint,” Wilt said.
“The public sector can’t do everything, okay? But we can play a key role in economic development and that’s what our Parks [and Recreation] Department does” said Wilt.
The arena’s been in the works for more than two years. City leaders originally hatched the plan, which Wilt admits hit a few snags. The city’s historic flood last summer put the project in jeopardy, but eventually those involved saw the disaster as a chance to give the idea renewed consideration. Cummins Employees’ Recreation Association General Manager Jim Kreutzjans helped the city attract a private company to come on board.
“It’s been a long process. This community went through an interesting 2008 with some epic floods. But the town and [Barofsky] stayed together,” he said. “And kept pushing and pushing and kept talking and kept the vision going on how we can make this [arena] happen.”
Kreutzjans said the company building and operating the facility will book the events and the city will not have a hand in the facility’s day-to-day operations. But will the versatile building add to the city’s architectural legacy?
“Yes and no,” Kreutzjans said. “I mean it’s going to be a facility that’s so uniquely designed and it’s definitely going to have an impact on the streetscape where it will be going.”
Barofsky Associates has hired Columbus-based contractors as builders on the project. Construction on the 125,000 sq. ft. building will begin in March and the facility will open in December.