Very soon the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex will open.
The athletics facility featuring 10 bat-and-ball diamonds and a 124,900-square-foot dome is slated to host its first softball tournament on June 5. This opening comes less than eight months after its Oct. 16 ground breaking.
In late March, there were six construction crews working to complete the complex located near Orange Prairie Road north of The Shoppes at Grand Prairie.
“It looks totally different every day,” LSSC executive director Dan Cunningham said.
The former EastSide Centre director and East Peoria’s Director of Tourism & Special Events doesn’t anticipate eight fields being playable before the beginning of June. However, all 20 dugouts — two for each diamond — are nearly done.
Two championship fields are scheduled to be finished by the middle of June.
Lights, fencing and parking lots should all be installed by late May. All underground parts of the complex including the storm sewers were put in over the winter.
There was little concern of construction halting when Wilson Sporting Goods Co. acquired the Louisville Slugger brand for $70 million in March, according to Cunningham. He was told Wilson was “excited about the potential of the new sports complex.”
The only potential hiccup would be what merchandise would be for sale in its store, he said.
“Now we have all the iconic names,” he said. “Things just keep getting better.”
Bat-and-ball sports will be in full swing at the LSSC in the 12-week window from June to August. Tournaments with as many as 100 teams will be played Monday through Friday.
Friday afternoon to Sunday are reserved for three-day tournaments with close to the same number of teams.
“That’s the only time we can do it, because the rest of the time the kids are in school,” Cunningham.
But having the dome on-site is a huge bonus. Basketball, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse will be played indoors nearly year-round.
Peoria-area teams will be able to utilize the complex from Monday to Thursday. Regional tournaments in those sports will then be held Friday night to Sunday.
Cunningham estimates the complex could host up to 12,000 games. In its best year, EastSide hosted 2,400 games.
“We’ll be busy for 50 weeks a year,” he said.
The economic impact of the LSSC will be phenomenal, Cunningham predicted. Teams and their families will likely eat, shop or grab a movie if weather forces any delays.
Also, during that 12-week summer span, the activity at the LSSC will fill 25 percent of the area’s 4,300 hotel rooms, he said.
“When we get rolling in 2016, we’ll be doing about 1,000 rooms a night from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” Cunningham said.
This also doesn’t include the number of restaurants that have inquired about starting franchises at The Shoppes.
“It’s amazing the buy-in we’re getting from the local community,” Cunningham said.
Jobs are another facet the LSSC is providing. More than 200 part-time and full-time employees — roughly 100 to 150 being umpires — will be hired in the coming months.
Currently, the main office for the LSSC is located within The Shoppes. By fall, the executive offices, museum and store will be constructed.
All the activity and preparation has Cunningham excited for the grand opening.
“I don’t think people understand exactly how big this is going to be,” he said. “They just envision it as being your every, average day sports facility, and they have no idea the experience that we’re creating.
“These kids are going to think they’re at Disney.”