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Consultant tells Osceola to invest in more sports fields and new arena

Consultanting firm HSP has recommended a radical shift in the master plan for Osceola Heritage Park - including a new 8,000-seat modern arena and more baseball fields.
Consultanting firm HSP has recommended a radical shift in the master plan for Osceola Heritage Park - including a new 8,000-seat modern arena and more baseball fields. (Osceola County)

Osceola County's Tourist Development Council got its first look Tuesday at a plan to spend nearly a quarter billion dollars to replace Silver Spurs Arena and build more sports facilities, including a massive new softball complex on W192.

The TDC discussed a preliminary report from the county's sports facility consultant, Hunden Stratetic Partners (HSP), that said a new 8,000-seat arena could be built in the southeast corner of Osceola Heritage Park. It could attract more concerts, events and even a host an NBA Developmental League team for the Orlando Magic.

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Deputy County Manager Beth Knight told GrowthSpotter that HSP would hold a workshop with TDC members in July to go over the recommendations in detail. Later this summer, the TDC will vote on which recommendations to forward to county commissioners.

"This is a first blush of the report," she said. "We're not asking the council to make any decisions today."

Silver Spurs Arena, built in 2003, is one of four sites the Magic is considering for its new Florida-based D-league team, but that list could be narrowed down to two: Kissimmee and Lakeland.

Magic Spokesman Joel Glass told GrowthSpotter that team officials toured both facilities Tuesday, and characterized those visits as "productive" toward the organization's mission to develop young players and build the brand in the region.

Glass declined to confirm if tours have been made at Disney's Wide World of Sports and Jacksonville, which were also under consideration by the club earlier this year.

While the new arena would have the same capacity as the current facility, it would offer more dining, premium seating options and corporate suites. It would also have the ceiling rigging capacity to accommodate the needs of touring shows and concerts -- something the existing 13-year-old Silver Spurs Arena lacks.

HSP estimates it would cost $210 million to build a new arena ($112 million), renovate the existing arena into exhibit space and make other improvements to OHP, such as developing two hotel pads and adding more baseball fields.

Sports consultant HSP recommends the county buy a 217-acre parcel at U.S.192 and SR 429 (near Margaritaville Resort) for a massive softball and soccer complex with 25 softball fields and 12 long fields.
Sports consultant HSP recommends the county buy a 217-acre parcel at U.S.192 and SR 429 (near Margaritaville Resort) for a massive softball and soccer complex with 25 softball fields and 12 long fields. (Osceola County)

Community Development Director Dave Tomek called the OHP proposals "the elephant in the room," but the county's highest priority is to sell the 5-field Osceola County Softball Complex in Kissimmee and build a new sports complex in the tourist corridor.

HSP evaluated four potential sites, and recommended buying the 217-acre parcel at the U.S.192-S.R. 429 interchange's southwest corner, by far the most expensive proposal. HSP estimates it would cost $36.7 million to develop a championship-level softball complex with 25 fields, and the site is large enough to accommodate a dozen long fields for soccer, lacrosse, etc. (not included in the cost estimate).

That property, just south of Orange Lake Resorts and west of Margaritaville Resort, has been on the market for years and is listed for more than $10 million.

Tomek recommended the county act fast on the land purchase. "Things are really starting to hop out there, and there aren't a lot places that meet our needs," he said. "This is the third draft of the report, and with each draft we've had to remove sites because they went under contract. Some are already in for permitting."

HSP recommends buying property adjacent to Austin-Tindall Regional Park and expanding it to 20 fields.
HSP recommends buying property adjacent to Austin-Tindall Regional Park and expanding it to 20 fields. (Osceola County)

Tomek also discussed the HSP plan for Austin-Tindall Regional Park. The county is spending $5 million to expand the soccer complex this year. The consultant recommends even more expansions. "We might be looking at potential in the future of buying the 100 acres next to it so we can expand to 20-field facility," he said.

TDC Chairman Brian Wong said he wanted to understand how the opening of Seminole County's new softball complex would affect the market demand before committing to the softball expansion. That 15-field facility opened May 1.

"I think in a few years we'll start to see pressure on the rates," he said. "Even if their service isn't as good, they can still hurt us."

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Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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