Sports company may make pitch for Walworth County

Development could bring thousands of youth athletes

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Nov. 8, 2006, 12:38 p.m.)

Game time is months away, but one Chicago company is revising its game plan and Walworth County could be a prospect to make the lineup card.

Intersport, a sports television production company, sports-based corporate hospitality provider and event-marketing promoter, is considering branching out and opening youth sports complexes. It made a first pitch to Walworth County in the form of a preliminary concept plan.

About 250 acres of county-owned land just north County NN is being considered for a 16-diamond youth baseball facility that could eventually expand to having soccer fields, basketball courts and a minor league baseball field.

"We're looking into a lot of counties. Walworth is one of them as well as other sites in Wisconsin and in the Midwest," said Danny Sternfield, Intersport director of communications. "It's very premature. We're months from having an agreement in place."

Sternfield did not say why the 250-acre cornfield behind the county campus was attractive. He also did not say where else the company was considering.

The venture into youth sports complexes would be a first for the company that provided corporate hospitality plans for Super Bowl XL and works as the sales and marketing arm for the NFL Network, Sternfield said.

"We're just kind of going through the due diligence of exploring everything," Sternfield said. "There is so much that goes into it: price, feasibility. We need to determine if this is a strategically sound move to do this."

County Public Works Director Shane Crawford would not comment on possible selling prices of the land.

Farmland in Walworth County sold for non-agricultural uses can go from between $6,000 and $12,000 per acre, depending on location, said Connie Poggensee, a Realtor for the Rauland Agency.

The county board has typically taken the stance that it wants to keep its land in and around the county campus, as shown by the board's decision not to sell the old Lakeland Health Care Center to private companies.

"I think that's still a policy decision the board is going to have to decide on," Crawford said of a land sale. Offers, however, are looked at individually, he noted.

"I think right now it's in a position where I think the county should take a look into it," Crawford said. "The public perception is that we have to do the best we can with the property we own.

"I see how the county could benefit from this type of thing. It's a neat idea. The gentlemen that are doing it will be successful wherever they go, and I'm glad they're looking out here."

According to Intersport's concept plans, the project would consist of three phases, developed over five years.

Phase one would include eight baseball fields, 49 player cabins and $10.1 million of initial investment in the county.

Phase two doubles the number of baseball fields and cabins and adds four soccer fields and a gymnasium with three full-size basketball courts. That would add an additional $10 million in investment.

A Minor League baseball field, phase three of the project, would be a $20 million investment.

The company predicts a total five-year investment of $40.1 million and operating expenses of $28.5 million.

If the project is completed in its entirety, the company can expect 240-260 seasonal jobs, 10 full-time positions and $34 million to $41.9 million spent in the community annually, according to the plans.
The company also proposes making a $37,500 annual contribution to Lakeland School, according to the plans.

Youth sports are growing and has created a $4 billion annual industry.

Research by Intersport estimates more than 8 million American children play baseball and there are 230,000 youth baseball teams. Of those, about 40,000 are travel teams, 17,000 of which are located within a 12-hour drive of southeastern Wisconsin, the plans read.

By phase three of the project, 44,500 kids and coaches could visit the facility per year, according to projections.




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