By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
Professional baseball players trying for the big leagues in Peoria may one day be able to simply fall out of bed and cross the street to the ball park.
The city is looking for someone to develop a proposed project named Stadium View on nine acres of land adjacent to the Peoria Sports Complex, 16101 N. 83rd Ave., in the P83 Entertainment District, which would house the teams during spring training, as well as other baseball players in development throughout the year. The housing would also be available to the public.
Project construction is estimated at $11.1 million, but annual gross revenues would be in the range of about half of that, according to an analysis by city officials.
The project was featured at a Peoria investment forum last month, and April 28 is the deadline for developers to submit their proposals.
The development would be privately built, owned, managed and operated.
“The 2016 Peoria Investment Forum was extremely successful and with over 90 developers and investors in attendance at the 2017 Forum, we were pleased to showcase player housing as a potential development,” said Mayor Cathy Carlat. “Although we don’t have any proposals yet for this concept, we are weighing other development opportunities and I’m excited to see what is to come.”
The Mariners and Padres have lease extensions keeping them at the Peoria Sports Complex through 2032.
Padres Chief Operating Officer Erik Greupner said the organization is supportive of Peoria’s ongoing efforts to develop P83.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the city on projects surrounding the Peoria Sports Complex,” he stated in an email.
Mariner team officials did not respond for interview requests by press time. But Scott Whyte, Peoria Economic Development Services Department director, said both teams have such a need to support their operations and are interested in the player housing concept.
Mr. Whyte sees the Stadium View project as a win-win situation.
He said teams would benefit from having player housing that is right next to the training facility and fields, reducing transportation logistics and providing a reliable and consistent housing option.
Player housing would also add a competitive edge to the Peoria Sports Complex, allowing it to attract other events and teams during the off-peak periods, including local tournaments and non-sporting events at Peoria Sports Complex.
Like other teams in the Cactus League, players on the Mariners and Padres either stay at area hotels, apartment complexes or places they rent on their own.
Under the proposed project, two 4-story, 50-unit corporate housing buildings with meeting space and ground floor retail would house the teams. Typical features would include kitchens, laundry facilities and team meeting spaces. Player housing can vary in size, from higher-end single occupancy rooms to more economical configurations that can house four or more players in a single suite. The proposal calls for a combination of single and multi-player rooms.
Estimated annual occupancy rate shows that 100 units of housing could reasonably be expected to achieve an occupancy rate of close to 80 percent annually, with higher occupancy rates and higher per room charges during the peak training season, according to an analysis. This would result in an estimated gross revenue in the range of $5.3 million annually, the analysis stated.
Community Services Deputy Director Chris Calcaterra said the project could provide a significant economic opportunity for the city.
“Whatever response we get from developers, the goal is to create a new amenity here,” he said.
A recent facility survey conducted by Tucson-based FMR Associates estimated the Peoria Sport Complex’s year-round total economic impact in 2014 was $52.7 million, $46.7 million of that from out-of-area participants/attendees, and $15.5 million of that coming from spending by Major League Baseball teams while at the complex for year-round training activities, including international baseball teams.
The complex is home to 12 full-size practice fields and four half fields used not only by spring training games, but for various minor league training seasons.
After the Mariners and Padres have returned to their home towns for the regular season, the various minor league training sessions hit full swing, including extended spring training, followed by summer rookie ball, the instructional league and then fall league. The complex is also home to more than a dozen local and national youth and adult baseball tournaments and championships, as well as non-sporting events.
“Summertime used to be tough (for athletics) but that has changed,” Mr. Calcaterra said. “With this project, rooms would be available for the leagues and tournaments throughout the year and they wouldn’t have to do buses or vans. The idea would be to have restaurant opportunities within walking distance and entertainment and all that synergy to create a mini district while they are in town.”
Nearby spring training facilities in Glendale and Surprise do not offer player housing, and there have been no discussions about such projects there.
However Pirate City, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training ballpark and minor league complex in Bradenton, Florida, includes 83 total dorm rooms on three floors, most double-occupancy with hotel-like amenities such as desks, sofas, wardrobe closets and private bathrooms with walk-in showers.
Player housing is also utilized at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in southern California, where athletes from around the world train for various sports ranging from rugby and rowing to tennis and soccer.
Formerly the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center, the facility was built in 1995 on 155 acres and has been used as an Olympic training center for Olympians and Paralympians as well as international, college, development and youth teams for tournaments and camps.
Operations and ownership transferred to the city of Chula Vista from the United States Olympic Committee, Jan. 1, and features 200 beds with 100 more planned this year and 1,000 meals served per day.
But the demand for housing sports teams has historically been accommodated on an ad-hoc basis, with blocks of rooms reserved in extended stay hotels, regular hotels and executive housing.
Estimated visitor spending associated with sports events in 2016 was $10.47 billion, a 10 percent increase from 2015, according to a study released this month by the National Association of Sports Commissions. Between 2012 and 2016, visitor spending in the United States increased 26.1 percent, the study stated.
Al Kidd, National Association of Sports Commissions president & CEO, said a project like Stadium View is one way for a municipality to keep revenue from leaving the city, through bed and sales taxes. The Peoria Sports Complex is located near the borders of Glendale and Sun City, with hospitality options nearby.
“The trend is to try to capture more revenue,” Mr. Kidd said. “This (project) would guarantee taxes for the city, a opposed to athletes staying in a neighboring city.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or email@example.com. Continue the discussion at yourwestvalley.com.