The Youth Sports Mega-Complex Comes to Town, Hoping Teams Will Follow

“We have some skin in the game,” he said.

There also have been some missteps. Building a massive youth sports development is a capital-intensive project, and the original investors ran out of cash after only 100 acres had been developed. In June, a hedge fund based near Los Angeles, Rimrock Capital Management, took the complex into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and, as the major creditor, decided to try to turn its debt into equity.

“They are doubling down,” said Dan Berman, a senior managing director of GlassRatner Advisory Capital Group, the Atlanta-based firm Rimrock brought in to restructure the deal.

With more than $100 million already at work, a priority is more hotels and restaurants: Signs marking the future homes of a Holiday Inn Express and a Spring Hill Suites stand alongside the bulldozers creating the roads that will connect them with the sprawling LakePoint complex. Berman said more sports facilities were a certainty, but Rimrock is also exploring more options, like added amusement attractions and a convention center.

In the meantime, and with summer over, lacrosse and soccer tournaments and flag football leagues are expected to keep the outdoor fields busy through the spring. The Champions Center is booked through next summer with cheerleading competitions and volleyball, basketball and futsal tournaments.

With new youth sports complexes popping up throughout the nation, including two projects in neighboring Alabama, Dean Keener, a senior vice president who helps manage the indoor facilities, said the youth sports industry had become as competitive — and as potentially lucrative — as his old profession: He is the former men’s basketball coach at James Madison University.

“It’s a lot like college recruiting,” Keener said. “You’ve got to sleep with one eye open.

“You sign someone and you may be on to the next recruiting class, but these complexes continue to go up and you can’t rest on what you’ve done or you’ll be out of business.”

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