Tempe is hoping a large indoor sports complex proposed on the Salt River’s banks will make the Valley a regional or national mecca for youth and amateur sports.
The 18-acre facility would include 60,000 square feet of indoor basketball and volleyball courts and would improve the Valley’s standing as a place for tournaments, said Steve Hatton, vice president of a Kentucky-based company that has proposed the facility.
"The Phoenix-Tempe area has such a good national reputation," Hatton said. "It’s a logical place to try to turn into a sports capital of the West."
Hatton’s company hopes Tempe will approve the facility at a City Council meeting tonight, paving the way for the company to build and operate the $5 million center. Tempe owns the property and would lease it to Hatton’s firm, STH Enterprises.
A popular sports facility would boost Tempe’s image and draw more tourists — something that’s especially important given the city’s loss of the Fiesta Bowl and the Arizona Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium, city officials say. Those events gave Tempe big-league name recognition, but most of those visitors were in town only a few days a year.
This sports facility is part of a city effort to have more events that continually bring tourists downtown and fill city coffers with tax revenue, officials said. Tempe already has events such as the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon and the Ironman Triathlon.
Though the tourism market is notoriously volatile, sports travelers are different, said Stephanie Nowack, president and CEO of the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"The youth and amateur sports market has demonstrated time and time again that it is immune to downturns in the economy," Nowack said. "Parents and grandparents will still travel with their sons and daughters to be with them at their sporting events."
Tempe has about 30 acres next to the site that this developer could expand on, or the city could lease the extra land to other operators to create a bigger draw.
"This will set the stage for more things to happen," Vice Mayor Mark Mitchell said.
The sports complex would be west of Tempe Town Lake on the south shore.
The site is undesirable for many developers because it includes a dirt mound with equipment that is part of the navigation system for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The federal government prohibits buildings immediately around the equipment, but the restrictions allow ballfields.