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3 months in, Sports Town operating near capacity 

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The $30 million Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town has been open for just over three months, and co-owner Stan Liedel says it’s busy all the time. 

“There was a capacity need in the area for more fields and courts and not enough places for kids to play,” he said. 

During Springfield Business Journal’s 12 People You Need to Know monthly live interview series, held yesterday at  The Backlot, Alamo Drafthouse Springfield's restaurant and bar, Liedel described the activity at the sports complex, which occupies 82 acres in northwest Springfield, with 12 outdoor sports fields and a 94,000-square-foot indoor facility containing four basketball courts that can be converted to eight volleyball courts, as well as two indoor soccer fields. 

Liedel co-owns Sports Town with partner Rob Phillips. Based in Jenks, Oklahoma, Liedel also is president and founder of L5 Management and Consulting, which operates several sports complexes and consults in the development of similar facilities. 

At Sports Town, Liedel said Monday through Thursday, soccer club Sporting Springfield is practicing and playing on the outside fields, while 417 Juniors Volleyball occupies all the courts – both representative of rental revenues. Sports Town offers its own programming, too, like Lil’ Kickers soccer classes for kids ages 18 months to 9 years. 

“These youth sports complexes, you’ve got a couple different revenue streams,” he said in the interview with SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson. “You have a Monday through Thursday business, and then you have your events on the weekends.” 

Weekends are completely full, he said, with tournaments and league play, and with adult activities like drop-in volleyball on Friday nights. And not all events are in athletics, he said; for example, a muscle car show is scheduled for April. 

The $30 million cost of Sports Town was about $7 million more than budgeted, Liedel said, noting COVID-19, supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages complicated the project. 

“For a private developer, you don’t make a lot of money as it is, so you have to figure out something,” he said. “You need to figure out financing and unique ways to gain capital, and we did that.” 

Staff also was brought on early to prepare for programming. 

“A lot of those things start a year out, so if you bring staff on right before the open, you’re a year behind,” he said. “If you want to have events as soon as you open, you have to really start sooner, and, well, those expenses have to come during your construction process, too.” 

Staff could work on raising sponsorships, booking tournaments and finding anchor tenants to drive revenue, he said. 

Liedel said participation of the city was important, and Springfield provided $2 million for infrastructure while also establishing a special income taxing district, with an extra penny in sales tax being collected to pay the city back for its investment. 

A challenge he faced was demonstrating the value of the facility to city leaders. He said a couple of weeks ago, Sports Town hosted a youth volleyball tournament with 45 12-member teams. Most paid to spend two nights in hotels with their family, and they also paid for breakfast, lunch, dinner and gas. 

“That’s what they call direct spend. And that is more of an impact than we’ll ever collect from a tournament on a weekend,” he said. 

He estimates Sports Town will generate $30 million per year in direct spending activity for the region. 

Liedel said 23 acres at Sports Town fronting Chestnut Expressway/State Highway 266 currently are being developed commercially, and he anticipates dirt to be moved for that project in May. He added that he hopes to see hotels and restaurants at the site, located about 2 miles south of Springfield-Branson National Airport.  

He said an entertainment venue also is planned near the complex, but it has not been announced yet. When questioned about the venue after his remarks, he said, “I’m talking about family entertainment, so just think of it as maybe pickleball, miniature golf, those types of events.” 

An announcement will come at a later date, he said. 

SBJ’s next 12 People You Need to Know live interview is with Kai Sutton, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP. The event is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. March 21 at the Alamo Drafthouse.

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