Group wants to build $30M tennis complex in Howard County

Posted: 8:16 pm Wed, April 14, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Art Tollick said his Howard County Tennis Patrons decided to ‘do something that really makes a mark on the county and region in terms of a regional sports destination.’A private group trying to build a $30 million tennis and sports complex in Elkridge says it’s one step closer to bringing a formidable economic engine to Howard County that could generate up to $69 million in spending in its first three years.

Howard County Tennis Patrons Inc. has agreed to terms with the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department for a 40-year lease of 14 acres in Troy Regional Park for the construction of the Troy Park Tennis and Sports Center.

What started off more than five years ago as a push to get more tennis courts built in the county turned into a coordinated effort for a privately funded sports complex, said HCTP President Art Tollick.

“We realized rather than do four or six courts, let’s do something that really makes a mark on the county and region in terms of a regional sports destination that could generate some economic development and bring in some people,” he said.

The city and state’s recent approval of more than $1.6 million in capital funding for predevelopment of the park land, including topography, grading studies or entry roads, was the spur HCTP was hoping for to get its complex off the ground, said Tollick.

According to the terms, which will be turned into a signed lease agreement subject to approval by the County Council, the tennis patrons will lease the land from the county and reimburse it for predevelopment expenses related to the 14-acre site for the future sports complex.

The complex would be located near the intersection of Maryland Route 100 and Interstate 95, feature 30 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, an indoor exhibition venue and an 8,000-seat multi-use stadium.

According to an economic impact study financed by HCTP, the complex would generate 79,000 room nights per year and $69 million in spending through its first three years.

That is primarily because the complex would draw a lot of youth competitions, said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management professor at the George Washington University who co-authored the economic impact study.

“They’re planning on doing the junior tennis nationals and junior youth competitions, and those tend to drive greater economic impact than professional events,” she said. “You have the professional athletes coming from out of town, but after that, those events only have about 15 to 20 percent of people who are coming from out of town versus 50 percent.”

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman could not be reached for comment Wednesday but he has called the project an “exciting opportunity” to jump-start Troy Park and bring a true sports tourism attraction to the county.

The complex could also host lacrosse, soccer, beach volleyball and even concerts, Neirotti said.

The complex also addresses a need in the region, she said, noting that the closest comparable facility would be in Washington, D.C., at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium, home of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

“There’s not really anything like this in the area,” she said. “[Howard County and] this region has a higher income demographic, the youth population is high, and there’s been a demonstrated interest in tennis.”

Tollick said his group hopes to raise $10 million through fundraising efforts, sponsorships and suite leases, and would finance the remaining $20 million.

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