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Lilburn report supports need for sports complex

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

LILBURN -- The City of Lilburn released Tuesday night its preliminary findings for a proposed $15 million sports complex.

The report states Gwinnett County has a high participation rate in Little League and softball leagues compared to national and regional levels, and that the metro Atlanta area has a higher pool of travel league participants than comparable cities.

These findings, which came from the Big League Dreams Facility Market Study, were discussed at a combined work session of the Lilburn City Council and the city's Downtown Development Authority.

At a recent meeting, the council had approved a license agreement to grant a 100 percent refundable payment of $450,000 in SPLOST money to Big League Dreams, sports park operators, for the feasibility study of constructing six fields for travel baseball teams on about 40 acres at the old Jackson Creek Sewer Treatment Plant, Indian Trail Road near U.S. Highway 29.

There will be a mayor's update on the complex with time set aside for public comment on at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

"The Market analysis is very good here," City Manager Bill Johnsa told the group. "It's a hotbed of sports."

Plans are for the facility to have six fields with four on a higher elevation than the other two, according to City Planning Director Doug Stacks. One large restaurant also is planned.

"It's all very preliminary right now," he said.

Bonds for the facility will be $15 million with $850,000 in annual debt service for 30 years at a 5.75 percent rate, Johnsa said.

In relation to the demographic study, Lilburn and the metro area were compared with the following cities which have operating BLD facilities: Gilbert, Arizona (Phoenix), Mansfield, Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth), and Las Vegas.

Other preliminary conclusions were that population and income of metro Atlanta are similar to these other cities. Atlanta also has well-developed recreational and travel ball leagues which "utilize an existing network of public and private sports facilities."

The purpose of the study was to provide specific, factual information about the facility to help Lilburn officials and others, and to identify the potential user groups of the facility, along with other facilities that would "complete" with this one.

Organizations interviewed for the study included the Atlanta Regional Commission, Lilburn Parks and Recreation and Planning and Development, Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce, and Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Departments, the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, among others.

Youth baseball (ages 5-15), youth fast-pitch softball (ages 5-15), and adult slow-pitch softball (ages 24-44) are expected to use the new complex. The majority of participants are expected to be from within Gwinnett.

The report showed that Lilburn has 5.28 million people within a 10-mile radius, compared to Mansfield, Texas (6,174,000).

Also, Gwinnett County hosts 15 local athletic associations operating youth baseball and softball leagues for ages five to 15, and that Gwinnett youth participate in recreational baseball and softball at a higher rate than regional and national averages. The report showed that there are only five competing facilities within 15 miles of Lilburn with 23 competitors within 40 miles.

These teams normally play two games on Saturday and possibly three games on Sunday in tournament play, according to Councilman Eddie Price.

Other statistics showed that 30 to 50 percent of teams travel more than 500 miles to take part in the tournaments.