Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Can the Jackson area support two travel sports facilities?

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In 2025, there may be two travel sports complexes in the Jackson-Metro area, each with the potential to significantly boost their respective local economies.

One, City Plaza in South Jackson, is close to construction. The other, the Megadome in Gluckstadt, is in early development.

Travel sports is a rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, but is the Jackson-Metro area big enough for two?

The facilities

Travel sports company 828 Sports Ventures announced the 43 acre, 400,000 square foot Gluckstadt Megadome Jan. 23 and said they had entered into a land deal with Madison-based real estate company Turn Key. “Gluckstadt Megadome” is a working title, awaiting a key sponsor.

In a special Gluckstadt Board of Aldermen meeting on Jan. 25, Larry Fortune, chief investment officer for 828 Sports, told the alderman and a packed room of local residents that a third party predicted the $100 million complex would generate $50 million annual economic impact for Gluckstadt — no small feat for a community that attained its city status fewer than three years ago.

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The Megadome is currently in the zoning stage, as the land owned by Turn Key needs to be zoned commercially. After zoning, the project can move swiftly given the only actual brick and mortar part of the building plans includes the hotel wrapping around the facility. The other components, the three air domes, can be built in a matter of 4-6 months.

Fortune said the project is ahead of schedule and if all goes well, the Megadome will be open and operational in 2025.

During the special meeting, Karla McCullough expressed concerns during the public comment section. McCullough is partnering with former NBA and Mississippi State player Erick Dampier to build City Plaza, a 33-acre, $58-million travel sports complex on Terry Road in Jackson, the former site of the Jackson Square Promenade.

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The complex, which will focus on basketball, volleyball and indoor football, will center around a sports facility called the Mississippi Athletic Center. Plans also include a hotel.

City Plaza aims to serve Jackson’s youth. However, McCullough said the complex will hopefully pull in players from major markets nearby including Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.

Third-party numbers, McCullough said, indicate that City Plaza will have an economic impact on Jackson of $30-$40 million annually. McCullough said the goal is to increase this impact to $50-$60 annually as the complex grows.

The City Plaza land on Terry Road has already undergone demolition. If all goes well, City Plaza will break ground this year and become fully operational at the end of 2025 or beginning of 2026.

Is there room for both?

City Plaza sits just over 20 miles away from the potential Megadome site.

McCullough said she is worried two travel sports complexes within such a distance would create an oversaturation of the market, threatening both facilities’ future revenue.

During the special meeting, McCullough asked the aldermen to consider the negative effects the Megadome plans may have. However, the Megadome project does not need official approval from the aldermen given the complex is a privately funded and owned business. Turn Key and 828 Sports Ventures have already entered into a land agreement.

The board’s blessing is still important to the team, Fortune said, but since they are not using any public funds, voting to approve the project is not necessary.

Fortune said he and his partners have been trying to get the Megadome project off the ground for the past three years and it’s finally coming to fruition. A native of Jackson, Fortune moved back to the area to start the project after living more than two decades in California.

Fortune said there is enough room for the Megadome to coexist easily and peacefully with City Plaza given the vast amount of travel sports athletes in the area.

At the special board of aldermen meeting, Fortune emphasized Gluckstadt’s ideal location for a travel sports complex given it is in a “six-hours radius” from several major cities including Dallas, New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta.

There are other major travel sports complexes within driving distance to the Jackson area, but Fortune said the uniqueness of the Megadome comes from the variety of sports it will support and the fact that most of the fields are indoors.

Still, competition with other complexes is a possibility, one that Fortune has already considered. Fortune said the Megadome, while it will support baseball, will not place a significant emphasis on baseball since the baseball travel complex Quarry Park in Brandon is around 30 miles away.

The target consumer audience for the Megadome and City Plaza does overlap, but is different enough that both can exist and thrive, Fortune said. The Megadome, Fortune said, caters to markets in nearby major cities and doesn’t depend on local athletes.

“That’s why we’re not looking at this as we’re going to rob from anybody, or they’re going to rob from us,” Fortune said.

Three weeks after the meeting, McCullough said her and her team’s concerns are still here, but she isn’t against the Megadome moving forward. Her reasoning for speaking at the meeting was to make the aldermen aware of a similar project already underway.

McCullough is hopeful that City Plaza and the Megadome can find a way to co-exist, but if the plans presented at the board of aldermen meeting stay the same, it will be difficult.

Her concerns hinge on the fact that the Megadome and City Plaza may cater to the exact same customers. But, if the Megadome were to shift their focus away from basketball, volleyball and indoor football, then there will be less of a divide, McCullough said.

“I would just hope that there is some consideration to plans that have already existed, because there’s no ill feelings,” McCullough said. “But, I know that we’re both going to be running a business. It just doesn’t make good fiscal sense to build two of the same things less than 20 minutes away.”

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