Peoria’s brand-new, world-class sports complex begins to open up this month.
Destination tourism is headed to central Illinois in the shape of the new Louisville Slugger Sports Complex. As Terence Mann told Ray Kinsella in the 1989 movie classic, Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.”
Instilling his vision and support for the complex, local developer Mark Petersen has made my task—and that of our entire team—enjoyable from day one. His marching orders have always been to build a complex and experience that will make Peoria the number-one baseball and softball experience in the country. I don’t think we are going to disappoint him.
A Major Community Asset
This summer, the crowds will begin showing up as we open the complex in stages over the remainder of the 2015 calendar year. But come 2016, it will be full speed ahead as we start our first full season of activities. Look for a couple events this summer that will bring in over 100 teams and one week-long event in 2015 where families will be spending the entire week in Peoria. The highlight of our 2015 schedule will be two days of women’s professional softball when the Chicago Bandits play the USSSA Pride from Orlando, Florida. Those dates are July 29th and 30th, and you will have the opportunity to see America’s best softball players, including a host of former Olympians, playing right here in central Illinois.
The Louisville Slugger Sports Complex (LSSC) is located in an area with a base of over two million youth baseball and softball players in the 23 metropolitan areas within a 300-mile radius of Peoria. LSSC is designed to host destination events and will cater to national and regional youth baseball and softball travel teams with our signature week-long tournaments from Memorial Day to Labor Day starting in 2016. LSSC will provide a significant economic boost, not only to the City of Peoria and neighboring communities, but to the State of Illinois.
Geographically located between Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis—and the 15 million people who call the area home—Peoria is the perfect destination for these events because the area has all the amenities of a big city and the charm of small-town USA. At capacity, the complex hopes to host over 10,000 competitive games a year and fill close to a 100,000 hotel rooms a year.
The 125,000-square-foot dome will be a major asset to the community, as it will host events all year long, and from September through May, it will be used to host local teams and associations Monday through Friday. The weekends will be reserved to bring in tournaments and outside events that will continue to bring in visitors to the community for overnight stays.
In addition to naming rights, the partnership agreement with Louisville Slugger will bring an extension of the world-famous museum hosted in its Louisville corporate headquarters, as well as a merchandising center that will sell the equipment and apparel that has made them famous for the last 130 years. These two components will be a destination on their own, but will also serve as a great amenity to all the players and their families when they visit. The museum and complex will feature numerous displays and interactive components that will have everyone lighting up social media with stories of the great time they had in central Illinois. How neat it will be to come to Peoria to see Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter memorabilia, and discover that the likes of Jim Thome, Joe Girardi, Ben Zobrist and Zack McAllister all started their baseball careers right here in central Illinois.
Momentum and Growth
Community buy-in has been fantastic for the project. We have been approached by numerous retailers, restaurateurs and community attractions, and will partner with many of them to create memorable experiences for our visitors that will highlight the baseball/softball experience they will have in Peoria. Just imagine a Louisville Slugger Day at Wildlife Prairie Park, or one on the riverfront with the museums, paddle wheeler and the Chiefs, or even ones at the retail areas where our visitors will be exposed to the hospitality and heartland values that the region is famous for. On our busy weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we will host up to 2,000 kids each week, plus their parents, so you can see the impact they will provide as they explore the community looking for bargains and new experiences.
We are very excited about being a part of the momentum and growth going on in the community. A special thanks goes out to the hundreds of people who have been working hard to make this project what it is going to be, from the first shovel of dirt turned to the first hot dog served when the crowds arrive. There is a long list of resources and talented people who have helped us on this project; their participation has been instrumental to our success. iBi
Dan Cunningham is executive director of the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex. For more information, visit sluggerpeoria.com.