The 164,000-square-foot center includes a fieldhouse designed for basketball and volleyball, a permanent ice sheet and another area that will be used as an ice rink in the winter, and a hard court for basketball and volleyball during the summer.
It’s estimated the center will contribute $8 million to the local economy within the first year and up to $12 million annually by year five.
“We designed this center for youth teams and tournaments since that will bring in more visitors and hotel nights in the area,” says Matt Ten Haken, director of sports marketing for the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This will provide a big boost to local tourism.”
The idea for the center began to come together in 2012, and once 10 area communities agreed to put aside some of their room tax money to pay for the project, planning kicked into high gear. Miron Construction Co. Inc. broke ground on the project in August 2018.
The fieldhouse can be used for eight volleyball courts or four basketball courts with seating for 1,000. Ten Haken says one unique aspect of the space is that the volleyball nets descend from the ceiling, so “it can go from basketball to volleyball in minutes with a click of a switch.”
The year-round hockey rink is NHL sized with seating up to 1,000. The cafe area includes windows, so people can watch from there as well.
The third space seats 300 and is currently set up as a second NHL-sized rink. In mid-March, the space will be transformed into additional hard-court space with enough room for four basketball courts or six volleyball courts.
“With all of the spaces, we really wanted to provide a place where these youth athletes will go, ‘Wow’ and be so excited to play here,” Ten Haken says.
In addition to its sports facilities, the center includes a cafe, a parents’ lounge, locker rooms and space for the teams to gather. The entrance at the rear of the building includes a player entrance, so players can walk right into the level where they can reach the locker rooms and playing surface. Ten Haken says hockey players, who typically have a lot of gear, really appreciate that offering.
Multiple area hockey teams, including the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha co-op team, are already using the ice rinks for practice, says Ten Haken, adding the hard-court areas can also be used for gymnastics, futsal, wrestling and handball.
“We really wanted to create a space that’s like no other when it comes to youth athletics, and I think we’ve succeeded,” he says.
In related news, the FCCVB has received a $39,550 Year-1 Joint Effort Marketing Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The organization will use the funds to help launch Fox Cities Originals, a promotional brand campaign to draw visitors and increase economic growth.
The campaign will launch in January, playing up the Fox Cities’ greatest strengths: unique activities, attractions, eateries and shops, an amazing lifestyle, and the people and the companies that make the Fox Cities a dynamic destination, according to a press release.
Grant funds will go towards online, social, print and broadcast advertising primarily targeting drive-to markets in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.