It seems fitting an IKEA just opened in Hamilton County, Indiana. The region keeps building off its humble roots.
“I remember drive-your-tractor to school day,” says Scott Spillman, who on Nov. 2 will transition from sports development manager at the Hamilton County Sports Authority to executive director of a recreational program in his hometown of Fishers, Indiana. The authority hopes to hire a replacement by year’s end.
Already home to the country’s biggest sports facility, Westfield Grand Park
is now a mecca for youth athletics. Grand Park was recently featured on HBO’s “Real Sports” in a segment on travel sports.
But one of the county’s strengths, says Spillman, is there is more than Grand Park, evidenced by his move. Fishers Sports & Entertainment Complex and Noblesville Fieldhouse are on track for 2018 openings.
The Noblesville complex will include five hardwood basketball courts, 75,000 square feet of indoor turf and a farm-to-table restaurant. “This facility will be the gold standard of youth athletic facilities in the United States. There will be nothing else like it,” says Andy Card, co-president and CEO of Klipsch-Card Athletic Facilities, LLC.
The 500,000-sq.-ft. Fishers site (12 courts; six turf fields), Spillman predicts, could attract the likes of USA Taekwondo
and USA Judo, among other indoor sports.
Grand Park will continue to attract the biggest events, given its 400-acre footprint. The Indianapolis Colts have already announced they will hold training camp there for the next decade.
The giant Grand Park has even proved to be a fit in surprising circumstances. Spillman recalls bidding to host USA Archery’s Outdoor National Championships with other facilities in mind.
Sarah Bernstein, media communications specialist at USA Archery and accomplished archer herself, says popularity spurred by “The Hunger Games” and Hawkeye from “The Avengers” has created a boom in the sport. As a result, the NGB needed the large venue to accommodate a record 1,200 competitors.
After preliminary rounds on the soccer fields, the archery finals were held in the championship stadium to hold the thousands of spectators and for live-streaming purposes. “I’d never seen an archery event of this magnitude,” recalls Spillman.
Record crowds are commonplace for events in Hamilton County, Spillman adds. He credits the Midwest location—a day’s drive for most of the U.S. population—and proximity to Indianapolis and its airport.
But while the county builds and grows, Spillman says it has not lost its charm. “When people come to Hamilton County, they find something that reminds them of home while it still feels like a vacation,” he says.