By Jeff Metcalfe for The Arizona Republic
Mesa voters rejected a ballot proposal to build a youth sports megacomplex, so a private investment group is taking on an even grander project.
Legacy Cares, Inc., an Arizona based non-profit organization, closed last week with Ziegler, an investment bank, on $250M financing to build a family sports and entertainment complex in southeast Mesa.
The Legacy Sports Park will cover 320 acres at Ellsworth and Pecos, east of Mesa Gateway Airport on the former General Motors Proving Ground. The complex is 50 acres larger than the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for mid-September with the park, to be managed by Oak View Group, expected to open in January 2022. Oak View Group’s recent projects include NHL arena development for the New York Islanders and expansion Seattle Kraken and with the University of Texas on a new basketball arena.
The Legacy Sports Park, pending a naming rights partnership negotiated by Oak View Group, will include 24 soccer fields (one in a multi-purpose stadium), eight baseball/softball fields (one with a stadium), 20 sand volleyball courts, 40 pickleball courts, an indoor multi-sports building with 62 volleyball courts, 16 basketball courts, an Esports arena and a 50-acre area with a multi-purpose outdoor amphitheater for concerts and other events.
Legacy Sports CEO Chad Miller said Legacy is partnering with English Premier League soccer power Manchester United to develop a soccer performance playground.
Also planned are a gymnastics, cheer and dance center, sports performance center, fitness center, sports bar/restaurant, food courts and athletic apparel shops.
Sales Tax Generator
Mesa City Council member Kevin Thompson said the expansive vision for Legacy Sports Park, which will be built in his district, differs from propositions that did not reach the ballot in 2016 and were rejected in 2018.
Thompson said he “warmed up” to the project as it expanded to include elements that would generate sales tax for Mesa, which does not have a primary property tax.
“It’s good for the region,” Thompson said. “It spurs economic development in that immediate area,” near where the Mesa Gateway Airport is expanding. “We’re going to see this area take off as (state Route) 24 gets built. This will be the catalyst that generates much more economic development for our communities.”
Chad Miller said Legacy Sports Park will be built on land leased for 40 years (with two five-year extensions allowed) from Pacific Proving LLC, owned by Bill Levine and Arte Moreno. “They really wanted something like this to come down to that area,” Miller said.
The financing to do so came together via economic development revenue bonds issued by the Arizona Industrial Development Authority culminating with the Ziegler closing August 20th.
Waltz Construction of Tempe has been hired as the project general contractor.
NHL Connection with Oak View Group
An NHL relationship thread connects Legacy Sports with the Oak View Group.
Doug Moss, Arizona Coyotes president/COO from 2003-10, now is Legacy Cares executive director. Tim Leiweke, Oak View Group founder and chairman, formerly was president/CEO of groups that own the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. OVG Facilities chairman Peter Luukko formerly was president of the Philadelphia Flyers and executive chairman of the Florida Panthers.
With Legacy Sports Park, Oak View Group is venturing into the youth sports, an estimated $19B industry according to WinterGreen Research.
The Legacy Sports Park also could better position metro Phoenix to host Olympic sport training and events. Dan O’Brien, 1996 Olympic decathlon gold medalist, will be the Legacy Park director of performance training.
Read more at The Arizona Republic.