Wellington officials are skeptical about making the proposed Wellington Athletics Complex at Wellington Community Park any bigger.
Mark Bellissimo unveils the plan for the new ‘Equestrian Village’ for Wellington Reserve
Mark Bellissimo wants to take over a 101-acre reserve and improved horse facilities, a hotel and luxury homes in the Wellington Equestrian District.
WELLINGTON – A plan to build a $36 million sports training facility in Wellington Community Park by three local professional athletes has won approvals from the village. Now, the Sports Promotion Group is pushing to make it a destination for sports tourism.
Adding more basketball courts will allow the facility to host regional and national competitions, said George Linley, director of the Palm Beach County Athletic Commission.
“In the county, we simply don’t have an indoor facility for sporting events,” Linley told the village council in October. “It will be a way to create tourism and expose the village to new visitors.”
Esports in Wellington: A personal game league for children will be opened in the Village Park
How to grow Wellington: Lotus complex of homes, restaurants and outdoor spaces double in size
High school football: Palm Beach Gardens cements its dark horse status by channeling the Wellington match
Linley said the Sports Committee was studying ways to fund the addition of the three courts, but did not specify a source or amount at the Oct. 11 meeting.
Some village officials were interested in Linley’s idea of making the complex a destination for regional sports leagues. Others questioned the benefits and said the project should retain its scale and be targeted at residents of the Wellington area.
“This is broth,” said village manager Jim Barnes of turning the rundown park into a regional championship center. “It largely serves a more regional or local group than sports tourism, which sometimes doesn’t work.”
Football and baseball players want to transform Wellington’s rundown park
The Village entered into an agreement in June to renovate the 14-acre park along South Shore Boulevard with Wellington Athletics LLC, a company set up last year by John Bostick, a linebacker with the NFL’s Washington captains Patrick O’Donnell, who kicks the ball for Green team. Bay Packers and Devon Travis, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays in Major League Baseball.
The professional players, all former top athletes at Palm Beach Central High School, strive to build a high-quality multi-sport complex in their hometown.
It will include seven indoor basketball and volleyball courts; one softball and one baseball field; a multi-purpose field; five indoor batting cages; physical therapy and recovery area fitness center; and a coffee shop.
This project is Wellington’s first public-private partnership. The village will finance $33 million of the total cost through a 30-year bond, which Wellington Athletics LLC will begin paying after three years.
As per the agreement, the Village will retain ownership of the building and Wellington Athletics will have exclusive lease rights for 30 years. The village parks department will also monitor operations.
The project received a positive recommendation from a market study by Clancy Sports LLC, an independent consulting firm based in Orlando that the Village hired to study the proposal.
“This can work,” said Mike Millay, founder of Clancy Sports. “But if we add three more courts, it will be a better project.”
Study: Wellington Athletics Complex must succeed in the affluent community
Clancy’s report found that the facility’s sporting offerings, experienced management, and diversified revenue streams contributed to his success in the affluent, family-driven city of Wellington. The village recommended moving forward with a public-private partnership.
Millay says the facility’s “all-in-one” concept of hosting workouts, training and recovery in one location will appeal to young athletes of all ages. Parents spend more each year in competitive youth sports, he said, and the type of specialized training Bostick wants to offer is usually only available at the college level.
“When we were growing up it was just about sharing, going to the park and playing a game,” Millie said. “Now, we are in the age of franchising.”
The study also concluded that Bostic’s plan was financially sound.
It identified multiple revenue streams for the athletic facility, such as court rental fees, specialized training, and memberships. He also pointed to the growing national demand for indoor recreational spaces, especially volleyball and basketball.
Millay also applauded the selection of Bostick Sports Facility Management, a Clearwater-based sports management firm, to oversee operations.
In terms of its location in Wellington, Millay said, the village is the ideal home for the development.
The study identified the growing demand for youth sports in the village’s affluent market. He found that approximately 25% of the village’s population was 17 years of age or younger and the village’s average annual income of $90,900 was well over $64,000.
Millay said he gauged demand in Wellington for the sports complex by contacting all the sports clubs and leagues in the village and said most of them reported not having enough pitches for games or pitches for open play.
Ultimately, however, Millay said, the facility’s success will depend on Bostick’s team. He said its ability to repay the debts incurred by the village would depend on the operations, marketing and sale of the complex.
“The balance of success with Wellington Athletics lies in managing operations,” said Millay. “Unlike other public parks, this one needs to be promoted and sold to be successful.”
The mayor fears the larger complex could add traffic to Wellington’s equestrian district
Bostic’s project caught the attention of the Athletic Commission, a private non-profit organization hired by the county to market the area as a destination for sporting events and for people who would travel for competitions.
Linley said the county lacks indoor recreational spaces and suggested Wellington Athletics add three more indoor courts for a total of 10. Competitive events are held in the Convention Centre, he said, but the West Palm Beach site is for meetings and all sports equipment has to be relocated with each tournament.
With seven stadiums planned, the sports facility could be a auxiliary site for tournaments, Linley said. With 10, it can host competitions with more than 70 teams.
“Sports tourism isn’t going to keep the lights on all day,” Linley said. “That’s where local programming and entertainment come in.” “Events will come here and reveal new people to Wellington and make an economic impact.”
Caitlin Guerin, a lawyer with Gunster representing Wellington Athletics, confirmed that three additional courts would fit on the site but would require more funding. She did not disclose the amount, but she committed to bring an estimate and determination for the next meeting of the company before the board.
Barnes said the original scope of the project was to build a community garden, not a county tournament center. He added that re-evaluation of the design delays the project schedule and raises construction costs.
Linley said his group is evaluating how to fund the cost of building three more indoor stadiums but has not done so Determine any source of financing.
Mayor Anne Gerwig has raised concerns about the project’s proximity to an equestrian district and how it could affect traffic.
Gerwig said, “If it works in Uber, we’ve got a lot of traffic in the middle of the horse parade. And it’s really a two-lane road.”
Councilor Michael Drahus said the village should not miss an opportunity to build a facility that can host competitions and bring in an influx of spending with teams staying in hotels, dining in restaurants and shopping in the mall at Wellington Green.
“It’s justification for their investment outside of sports,” Drahus said. “Let’s be as cutting edge as we can be and create something no one else can compete with.”
Valentina Palm covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee, and other western communities in Palm Beach County for The Palm Beach Post. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValenPalmB.