Lowell City moves forward to build regional sport complex

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

Life Wellness USA is one step closer to building a regional sports complex in town following a vote from the City Council last week.

The council approved a 25-year lease with the Alabama company during its regular meeting Feb. 17. The company will lease 30 acres from Lowell for $1 a year.

"Now we have the thing that will eventually identify us with the Northwest Arkansas community," said Mayor Eldon Long. "People equate the Naturals ballpark to Springdale, the University of Arkansas to Fayetteville and Crystal Bridges to Bentonville. Lowell is very excited to have a facility like this that will anchor us to the community."

Jay Mejia, Life Wellness USA managing principal, said the 220,000-square-foot facility will house eight basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, four indoor soccer courts and an Olympic-sized pool. It also will have a therapy center.

"During the weekdays this will be a center dedicated to the community," Mejia said. "On the weekends this is meant to be a regional facility that can house regional and national tournaments."

Construction on the $30 million project could start as early as June, Mejia said. It will take 14 months to open the sports facilities, he said. It will take an additional eight months to open the pool.

The lease agreement states the company can lease 30 of the 100-acre Kathleen Johnson Memorial Park. The park sits at the intersection of West Monroe Avenue and Bellview Street just off Interstate 49.

"We thought Lowell was a strategic location because of its proximity to the airport and access to the highway," Mejia said. "This makes it a regional facility not just a Lowell facility. It is accessible from the north and the south."

Long said he decided to run for another couple terms as mayor mostly because of the center.

"This is huge for Lowell," Long said. "It is going to add a lot of opportunity economically. I am more excited about this project than any other project. It is going to increase the quality of life in so many ways for our citizens."

Other development is likely to follow, Long said. He said hotels and restaurants likely will want to be near the center.

Rodney Reed, a resident of Lowell, said the area needs more recreational facilities.

"In order for the area to grow, it is something you have to do," said Reed, also Bethel Heights police chief.

Children in the area need healthy alternatives, Reed said. He said this facility will give them that.

Lowell has the opportunity to take ownership of the building at the end of the lease, Long said. He said the city also could decide to continue leasing the facility for five-year terms.

Lowell has a similar partnership with the First Tee operation in Ward Nail Park. The city leases the property to the youth golf program.

Mejia said the company expects it will recoup the construction cost and generate some revenue before the end of the 25-year lease. He said the lease helps the company get better financing because of the community involvement.

Life Wellness USA also is discussing contracts for facilities in Flagstaff, Ariz., and Indianapolis, Mejia said.  



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