Consider These Issues When Proposing an Indoor Sports Complex

Physical limitations, local market needs and funding sources must be considered when proposing an indoor sports complex.

When considering the conversion of an existing structure into an indoor sports complex, the first step is to determine whether it can be converted at all. Then market studies and funding plans can be developed. Here is a short primer on the process:

Determine whether conversion is possible. Zoning ordinances should be checked to see if recreational use is permitted or if a "conditional use variance" is required, and it also is necessary to know parking requirements ahead of time. The local municipal planning department can help answer these questions. Next, keep in mind that traditional retail and warehouse spaces have ceiling heights and support columns that can limit a building's potential. A minimum ceiling height of 24 feet is needed for any court sport; for turf sports, a ceiling height of at least 20 feet is required. In both cases, higher is better. Support columns, meanwhile, can't simply be removed to make more space; they are structural elements of the building that exist for a purpose. If sports complex investors would like to explore the removal of some or all of the support columns, an engineering firm must be involved to provide options and cost estimates for replacement support beams to ensure that the facility remains structurally sound. Finally, the facility's existing HVAC system should be evaluated to ensure that its size and type is sufficient to operate a sports center. Installing a new system might be necessary.

Commission a professional market study. Once you know that the building you're looking at can work - and what the renovation costs will be - your business plan should include a professional market study. This study will evaluate what types of facilities (turf sports, court sports, fitness centers) are needed in the area, what groups would most likely use those facilities, and what their price points would be. This process predicts whether the project would potentially lose money, break even or make a profit. Knowing what type of revenue the complex could generate, and then getting a construction estimate, will help determine whether the project is financially viable.

Secure adequate funding. Funding for these types of projects can be done in a number of ways. Some are paid for entirely with municipal dollars; others rely on nonprofit funding or the development of cooperatives between municipal, nonprofit, educational and private entities. The key is to have one group leading the charge, thus ensuring that the project moves ahead in a timely manner.

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