The Betty and Bobby Allison Sports Town hosted a grand opening event Friday afternoon in northwest Springfield.
The massive complex of athletic fields and indoor courts at 209 Airport Boulevard near the Springfield-Branson National Airport is being hailed as a game changer for the local youth sports scene.
Construction began in April 2021 on the new center, which includes 12 outdoor fields and a more than 90,000-square-foot indoor facility with basketball and volleyball courts plus two indoor soccer fields.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Stan Liedel, one of the developers of the project. “We think there’s a true need here in the Springfield area and it takes a long time to get these things up and running. So it’s just great to get to this day.”
The Betty and Bobby Allison Sports Town is equipped to host large tournaments for youth basketball, volleyball, soccer and football. There is also potential for lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee and other events.
Liedel said the facility is already up and running, after hosting volleyball and indoor soccer on Thursday. He said the number of inquiries and bookings they have received proves how needed this facility is for the community.
Funds for the complex came from a public-private partnership between the city of Springfield and developers Liedel and Rob Phillips. It is named after donor Bobby Allison and his mother. Allison, a longtime Springfield philanthropist, died in September.
More:Springfield philanthropist Bobby Allison dies at 74
Developers believe investment will pay dividends for city
Liedel explained that the $30 million project was paid for almost entirely with private funds. The city entered into an Infrastructure Reimbursement Agreement for certain public improvements totaling $2.1 million in fiscal year 2021.
The developers touted the Betty and Bobby Allison Sports Town as a potential boost for local tourism because it will be able to host large sports tournaments throughout the year, bringing thousands of visitors to Springfield.
Phillips told a crowd gathered for Friday’s event, including Springfield’s mayor and city manager, that the Sports Town could lead to $30 million in tourism dollars being spent in Springfield every year.
Phillips said people were skeptical when he first started sharing his plans to build this facility near the airport in northwest Springfield in an area without much commercial development. He believes Sports Town will be the catalyst, prompting other businesses to come to the area.
“This is going to spur development in this part of town,” Phillips said.
Stacie Wells, Sports Town general manager, said the benefits of the complex go beyond just tourism dollars. With Sports Town now open, she said more kids in Springfield will have the opportunity to play organized sports and reap the benefits of learning teamwork and discipline.
Phillips also took a moment Friday to acknowledge Bobby Allison and his contributions to this project. Phillips said Sports Town would not be the state-of-the-art facility it is without Allison’s support.
“The city was lucky to have somebody like Bobby,” Phillips said.