As published in Toledo Business Journal - June 1, 2017

Sports Force Parks a $6.3M win

New visitor income for Erie Co. to reach $57M/yr by 2020

A strategic initiative aimed at bringing new visitors to northwest Ohio is launching its inaugural season. The new initiative has been designed to gain a share of the rapidly growing and recession-resilient youth sports tourism industry. As many parents with children involved in sports know, quite a few youth sports teams and their families travel to tournaments during a season.

Construction has been completed on Phase One of Sports Force Parks in Sandusky and teams are continuing to schedule its use for the 2017 season. The first phase of the development project includes an outdoor sporting facility, Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center. This newly constructed, large youth sports tournament facility consists of nine multipurpose, synthetic turf fields, four NCAA regulation baseball fields, a championship baseball and softball stadium, eight NCAA regulation soccer and lacrosse fields, sport-specific training areas, and an ADA-accessible community use field.

Phase One investment of an estimated $6.3 million includes land acquisition costs of $3.5 million, facilities construction costs of $2 million, and road construction of $800,000 thousand.

The park also has a “great lawn” and promenade with additional activities for families, including miniature golf, a ropes adventure course, a bungee trampoline challenge, playground activities, a range of food and beverage options, and more.

Past and future

At the end of 2013, the former Griffing-Sandusky Airport closed its operations. This prime site on Lake Erie became vacant and could have been converted to an industrial park or some other commercial use. Instead, this strategic initiative made the unique location the home of this large sports complex.

Phase two of the Cedar Point Sports Center, which has not yet been put in place, will see the introduction of a new Erie Metroparks experience, with development of the land at the waterfront with biking trails, scenic spaces to relax, and impressive views of Lake Erie and Cedar Point in the distance.

Economic impact

Officials involved with the new venture estimate that by 2020, Sports Force Parks will bring close to $57 million a year of new income to Erie County. Additional economic benefits for businesses and their employees will be provided to other areas of northwest Ohio as some families and their young athletes spend extra time before or after tournaments traveling in the region.

Visitor bookings

Sports Force Parks’ ability to host all levels of baseball, softball, soccer, and lacrosse – combined with professional-level synthetic turf fields and diverse family activities – led to strong reaction from the sports industry with interest, bookings, and partnerships from noted organizations such as U.S. Lacrosse and more.

“We’re extremely pleased with the progress of Sports Force Parks and its initial reception thus far,” said Brian Storm, president and chief executive officer of The Sports Force & Fields, Inc., the organization that will manage the facilities and operations. “We are excited about our partnership with Cedar Point and the local community, and look forward to the opportunity to create a world-class tournament experience for teams and their families. The intense interest in the project is all positive not only for Sandusky, but for the entire state of Ohio and the surrounding areas.”

In addition, the partnership between Sports Force Parks and Central Alliance Soccer Association (CASA) will allow the complex to extend its season by nearly two months, adding events in March and November.

CASA and Sports Force Parks will come together to host a series of events throughout the year, changing the landscape of youth soccer opportunities throughout the region. CASA’s network includes 550 teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York participating in its various leagues.

There are additional benefits for teams that participate in tournaments at Sports Force Parks, according to organizers. They’ll have the opportunity to not only play at the state-of-the-art facility, but as an added benefit to tournament registration, they’ll receive free admission to Cedar Point and Soak City Waterpark during the length of their events.

Family members who visit Sports Force Parks to support teams, watch tournaments, and enjoy the facility’s recreational activities can purchase discounted Cedar Point and Soak City tickets as well. Special rates and ticket packages are also available for tournament families at the Cedar Point Resorts hotel properties.


Cedar Point and parent company Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, headquartered in Sandusky, are committed to community development and the youth sports space, according to company officials. This new facility has been made possible by collaboration with The Sports Force, local businesses, governments, community leaders, and tourism organizations and is Cedar Fair’s first major foray into the youth sports tourism industry. The facility will serve as the framework to allow Cedar Fair to explore potential sports facilities in new markets across the country.

“When we think about how we can impact the communities we serve, family fun is what we do best,” said Jason McClure, Cedar Point’s vice president and general manager. “We know that time is valuable to busy families participating in so many activities. If we can combine their sporting events with a few days at Cedar Point and our other parks, they’ll be able to spend more time together and our communities will benefit immensely.”

“The Cedar Point Sports Center is a true public-private partnership between Cedar Point, The Sports Force, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, the City of Sandusky, Erie County, and Erie Metroparks,” said McClure. “We’re all committed to enhancing community resources, and the benefits to our area will be long-lasting and substantial for years to come.”

Jim Arnold, director of business development for The Sports Force & Fields, Inc., added, “Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center will be a world-class destination for sports-focused families. Our mission to combine sports, family, and fun will bring young athletes and their families from across the country and provide them with the opportunity to combine a sports tournament with a family vacation.”

“Lake Erie Shores & Islands is extremely excited for the development of the Cedar Point Sports Center,” added Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shores & Islands. “We thrive on attracting families to our area. This project will not only be a powerful addition to the Firelands region, but also to Ohio’s all-important tourism industry.”


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