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Sportsplex seeks cash investors; Engage LLC needs $3.5-$4.9 million to build Sussex facility

The company that wants to build a 130,000-square-foot Sportsplex in Sussex now has at least two-thirds of the money it needs to start building the facility.

The company that wants to build a 130,000-square-foot Sportsplex in Sussex now has at least two-thirds of the money it needs to start building the facility.

Engage LLC has secured a $7.5 million loan from Ridgestone Bank in Elm Grove, Engage President David Mueller of Genesee Depot said in an interview Monday.

"They're high on this project," he declared.

The bank recently reaffirmed its commitment in light of the recent troubles the banking community has faced in the wake of the subprime mortgage scandal and what many economists feel is a looming recession rooted in the country's home-building slump, Mueller added.

SPORTSPLEX - Engage LLC managing partner Dave Mueller hopes his company will open this 131,000-square-foot "sportsplex" on Silver Spring Road across the street from Templeton Middle School next fall at a projected cost of $10-$10.75 million.
Engage is now trying to sell pieces of itself at $74,000 a pop to raise the additional $3.5-$4.9 million it needs to break ground on the land it owns on Silver Spring Road across the street from Templeton Middle School, Mueller said.

 

All the other pieces are in place, he added, including the village's conditional-use permit.

"All they need from us now is a building permit," Sussex Assistant Village Administrator Jeremy Smith confirmed Monday, "plus a liquor license, if they still want one."

Engage officials asked the Sussex Plan Commission last spring to allow Sportsplex's food service concessions to serve tap beer and wine coolers along with sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks.

Village staff wrote the Sportsplex conditional-use permit to allow Engage to apply for a liquor license, subject to approval by the Village Board, Smith said.

Mueller said he and his partner, Engage Vice President Jeffrey Olson of Menomonee Falls, "have also privately financed the site prep to weatherproof it, so we don't have to worry about ground frost when we're ready to start digging."

Mueller and Olson are equal partners in Engage LLC, but after they sell equity shares in the company, their own stakes will dwindle to 27.5 percent each.

"Once we get the equity financing," which Mueller said he expects to raise by the end of next month, "we can break ground in two weeks."

He hopes to complete the project and open for business in late fall "if everything goes right," he said.

That's a year later than the company's original plan, however, which called for a May groundbreaking and November opening last year.

Engage Sportsplex is the second such facility envisioned for Sussex. The other is a YMCA in the Pheasant Farms development on Highway 164 near Richmond Road.

Sportsplex, however, will emphasize team sports and leagues, while the Y is more oriented toward individual fitness training, Mueller explained in an interview last February, though Sportsplex will offer fitness programs, as well.

It won't offer swimming facilities like the Y, however.

Sportsplex will also rent space for social occasions such as baby showers, anniversaries, and birthday and retirement parties, and for fitness and dance classes and athletic and recreational clubs.

The facility will also offer an 866-foot walking and jogging track for people who'd rather walk there than in a mall.

"The malls are getting more restrictive about when you can walk there, too," Mueller said.

The Hamilton School District has also expressed interest in using the Sportsplex facility, Mueller said, as have a number of sports leagues and clubs.

The Engage Sportsplex property will be assessed at about $9 million once the facility opens, Mueller said in an interview last year. At this year's $4.75 mill rate, that would bring in almost $43,000 for the village.

Mueller and Olson have also said the proposed Sussex Sportsplex is one of 10 such facilities Engage hopes to open over the next six to 10 years. Possible sites include Eau Claire, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Nashville and Kansas City.


New investor revives indoor Sportsplex

Illinois company takes over as managing partner

Village of Sussex A new investor has revived prospects for an indoor sports complex across Silver Spring Road from Templeton Middle School originally proposed in February 2007.

Groundbreaking for the 130,000-square-foot Sportsplex could begin as early as July, according to Engage LLC President David Mueller of Genesee Depot, who founded the company with Vice President Jeff Olson of Menomonee Falls.

Engage had trouble raising all the money it needed for the facility after the real estate and banking crises broke early last year. Initially pegged at $10 million, cost estimates for the project rose to $11 million to $13.5 million by the time the company secured a $7.5 million loan from Ridgestone Bank in Elm Grove in January 2008.

The new managing partner, G23 Development of Arlington Heights, Ill., has already added the Sussex Sports Center to its Web page, which lists nine other projects as well, including a 175,000-square-foot facility in the Chicago suburb of Lake Barrington that draws thousands of players and spectators for soccer, volleyball, basketball and other indoor sports.

Since its initial 2007 design, the architects of Wahlgren-Schwenn of Menomonee Falls have added a 35,000-square-foot artificial turf to one of the proposed facility's field houses. The new surface will primarily serve local soccer teams for games and practice, according to the company's Kevin Wahlgren, but also work for football conditioning and lacrosse, field hockey and peewee baseball games and practice.

The new turf, "the same as the ones at Brookfield Center and Camp Randall," was added to the project recently after meetings over the last two to three months between Wahlgren-Schwenn and local teams and other potential users, Wahlgren said.

The project still needs a village building permit and might apply again for a liquor license. Engage officials had asked the Sussex Plan Commission in April 2007 to allow the Sportsplex's food service concession to serve tap beer and wine coolers along with sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks.

The company's conditional-use permit allows Engage to apply for a liquor license, subject to approval by the Village Board.

Engage Sportsplex is the second such facility envisioned for Sussex. The other is a YMCA on Highway 164, which the country's economic recession has also delayed.

Sportsplex will emphasize team sports and leagues, however, while the Y is more oriented toward individual fitness training, Mueller explained in a 2007 interview, though the Sportsplex will also offer fitness programs. It won't offer swimming facilities like the Y, however.

The facility will also rent space for social occasions and for fitness and dance classes and athletic and recreational clubs.

The facility will also offer an 866-foot walking and jogging track for people who'd rather walk there than in a mall.

"The malls are getting more restrictive about when you can walk there, too," Mueller said.

Building plans include a room for activities requiring padding, such as wrestling, martial arts, aerobics and cheerleading and other rooms for sports clubs and civic groups to meet, he added.

The Engage Sportsplex property will be assessed at about $9 million once the facility opens, Mueller claimed in 2007. At this year's $4.66 mil rate, that would bring in almost $42,000 for the village.

Despite G23's takeover, Mueller said recently that he's still involved in the project and hopes the new ownership group will give the go-ahead to expand to other cities of the Sussex Sportsplex proves successful, including

Engage's original list of possible sites: Eau Claire, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Nashville and Kansas City.

G23 officials could not be reached for comment before press time.


Revived 'Sportsplex' seeks OK

Village of Sussex The long and often delayed proposal for a sports complex (or sportsplex) across Silver Spring Road from Templeton Middle School was revived once again at last Thursday's Plan Commission meeting.

"We were brought in to finish a project that wasn't going to get done," Dale Bianco, a managing member of G23 Sports Development of Arlington Heights, Ill., told the panel. "You approved a project that wasn't going to get done."

G23's new proposal would increase the proposed facility's "footprint" by more than 7 percent, from 119,000 to 128,000 square feet.

That would bring the complex's size almost back to the dimensions of its original proposal.

Bianco said the extra space would accommodate the more individualistic "action sports" - skateboarding, inline skating and BMX biking were the ones he named (motorcycling was not among them, however, he pointed out) - that young people are more drawn to today than to traditional team sports, such as basketball, soccer, football and baseball.

The facility would not house a skate park, however, he explained, but serve as a training center and a place to hold tournaments.

The sports center would also serve the community, Bianco said.

"When we met with your village staff, Evan and Jeremy really put us through our paces," he said, referring to Village Administrator Evan Teich and Assistant Village Administrator Jeremy Smith.

Based on his own background on an Illinois municipality's Plan Commission, "I had assumed they would want to know what kind of sales tax revenue we'd bring in," he said.

"Not true. They wanted to know," he continued, "What are you going to do for the Village of Sussex?"

Recounting his answer for the Plan Commission, he said, "We're going to build a facility that's a destination," that will help bring in "ancillary developments" - other businesses that would serve not only the sports complex's young customers, but the facility's neighbors as well.

Plan Commissioner Richard Wegner asked Bianco if he had been working with the community's schools.

Bianco said he had been "building bridges" to schools and nearby churches. He said he expected to rent some space in church parking lots for overflow parking and school courts on Fridays for opening day of weekend sports tournaments, when a larger number of teams would be entered on the first round.

But Wegner wanted to know about "building bridges the other way, schools using your facilities."

Bianco replied that he planned to "go beyond that," making the facility "an amenity for the entire community," renting space for meetings, conferences and conventions.

G23 and the project's general contractor, Wahlgren-Schwenn of Menomonee Falls, are going through the village's permit process again virtually from scratch.

"The addition of action sports is a significant enough change - they were not part of the original conditional use permit" to warrant amending the project's permit, plan of operation and architectural plan, explained Smith.


Sussex 'sportsplex' project grows again

Village of Sussex Just two months after its new developer won approval for an expanded "sportsplex" across Silver Spring Road from Templeton Middle School, the project has grown once again - this time by 9 percent, from 135,315 to 147,760 square feet.

The additional space will help the facility accommodate an extensive list of new programs, from tournament team play, practice and training to aerobic and Pilates classes and BMX biking and cheer/pom training.

The Engage Sports Complex will also expand the multistory building's footprint from 119,000 to 128,000 square feet and increase the number of its parking stalls from 258 to 319.

The Plan Commission approved both the amended size and program changes to the project's conditional-use permit at its meeting Thursday night.

The panel had approved an earlier set of program additions and enlarged facilities at its August meeting. Assistant Village Administrator Jeremy Smith explained that minor changes required only staff approval, according to the conditional-use permit, but the new program list was so extensive it required full Plan Commission approval.

Developer Dale Bianco, a managing member of G23 Sports Development of Arlington Heights, Ill., also promised the panel an October 2010 opening date - depending on financing.

"We believe financing is forthcoming by November," he told the commission. He said he expected to break ground for the project four weeks after that.

"It's a question of when, not if," he emphasized.

The project was originally proposed in February 2007, but Bianco's company didn't take over the project until this summer.

"We were brought in to finish a project that wasn't going to get done," Bianco told the Plan Commission in August. "You approved a project that wasn't going to get done."

The sportsplex will also serve the broader community, he said then.

"We're going to build a facility that's a destination," he said, that will help bring in "ancillary developments" - other businesses that would serve not only the sports complex's young customers, but the facility's neighbors as well.

It will be "an amenity for the entire community," he added, renting space for meetings, conferences and conventions.


'Sportsplex' renamed 'Springbok'

G23 Sports Development has tentatively renamed its proposed sports facility at N58 W22387 Silver Spring Road the Springbok Regional Academy.

The Arlington Heights, Ill., developer discarded the old name, Engage Sportsplex, when it took over the project from Engage developers this summer. Engage had initially proposed the "sportsplex" in February 2007.

Springbok is the name of a small South African antelope (standing just 30 inches at the shoulder) and of that country's national rugby team.

The facility's name might change again, however, according to G23 developer Dale Bianco, because of new sports the project recently added.


Sussex sportsplex waiting on lending

Developer said local site remains a priority; expects financing before year's end

Village of Sussex The economy has laid claim to another planned development in Waukesha County, putting things on hold until the financial and lending environment improves.

Developer Dale Bianco reported last November that he projected an October 2010 opening for the $16 million, 147,760-square-foot Springbok Regional Academy across Silver Spring Road from Templeton Middle School. However, according to recent reports, Bianco said the project is on hold, though he hopes to secure financing by the end of the year.

The Sun attempted to contact Bianco for comment, but his phone was disconnected and he did not respond to our e-mail.

According to published reports, Bianco said that because of the current state of the economy the project's timeline has been longer than originally anticipated. But he thought his company, G23 Sports Development based out of Arlington Heights, Ill., would get the go-ahead from lenders to begin planned projects before the end of 2010. Bianco said the Sussex sportsplex remains a target location and will be a priority once funding is realized. Last fall, Bianco received approval by the village to certify a portion of the property at "blighted" wetlands and forest so he could become eligible for tax-exempt Midwest Disaster Area Bonds. Congress created the Midwest Disaster Area Bonds in October 2008 in the wake of massive flooding in the region earlier that year.

The Springbok Regional Academy is slated to be a sports hub for the area, accommodating an extensive list of programs from tournament team play, practice and training to aerobic and Pilates classes and BMX biking and cheer/pom training. Bianco gained approval last October to expand the building from 135,315 to nearly 148,000 square feet with 319 parking spaces. He did say at the time that the October 2010 opening date was contingent on financing.

"We believe financing is forthcoming by November," he told the commission. He said he expected to break ground for the project four weeks after that. "It's a question of when, not if," Bianco said last fall.

Interim Village Administrator Jeremy Smith said it has been several months since he has heard from Bianco, but he is confident Bianco is still committed to moving forward when possible.

"It's the same message I'm hearing from every developer," Smith said of the financial environment affecting developments. "This project is a heavy upfront capital infusion, and the world has changed."

Smith said G23 Sports Development has similar facilities in Chicago and Denver. "They are successful operations," Smith said.

The sportsplex has been in ebb and flow for the past few years as G23 took over the project from the original developer, Engage LLC, becoming an investor and the new managing partner. Engage had trouble raising all the money it needed for the facility after the real estate and banking crises broke. Initially pegged at $10 million, cost estimates for the project rose to $11 million to $13.5 million by the time the company secured a $7.5 million loan from Ridgestone Bank in Elm Grove in January 2008.

The developer discarded the old name, Engage Sportsplex, when it took over the project from Engage developers. Engage had initially proposed the "sportsplex" in February 2007. Springbok is the name of a small South African antelope and that country's national rugby team. The facility's name might change again, however, according to Bianco, because of new sports the project recently added.

 

 

 

 

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