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POWERplex project in Chesterfield Valley off and running

By: Jim Erickson

Proposed POWERplex in Chesterfield

Any lingering doubts about the feasibility of the proposed new sports and education complex in Chesterfield Valley, and the support and commitment behind it, likely fell by the wayside with the formal unveiling of project plans and the announcement of its major financial backing.

Among the key announcements made during the April 6 gathering of supporters, civic leaders, Cardinals officials and news media at the Brew House in Ballpark Village was a $6 million contribution from Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield. Rex is a financial executive, a political activist known for bankrolling the campaigns of political candidates and causes, and a philanthropist who has supported a variety of organizations and entities through the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.

A major portion of the $23 million in financial commitments needed by June 1, as called for in an agreement with the city of Chesterfield, is already in hand. A public fundraising period, launched at the Ballpark Village gathering, is expected to boost that amount before the deadline.

The Baseball and Softball Education [BASE] Foundation, an organization founded by a group of coaches and baseball/softball parents, is behind the project and working with Big Sports Properties, LLC [BSP], a St. Louis-based partnership group that is acting as the developer.

Named POWERplex, the development ultimately will include a 74-acre campus to include dual sport domes, multiple turfed fields and educational facilities designed to attract traveling youth and amateur sports teams from a broad area.

The operation will be located along North Outer 40 Road in Chesterfield Valley, east of the existing Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex.

This isn’t just a sport megaplex,” said St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheney, who is the project’s lead ambassador. “A major component will be the Sinquefield Center for Human Development, a state-of-the-art education facility where thousands of young athletes will receive BASE training.” The center is named for the project’s major donor.

BASE is a program emphasizing the core values of leadership, teamwork, respect, emotional control and an attitude of gratitude. Classroom instruction will use sports situations and real-life scenarios to teach those values.

Rick Sems, president of the BASE Foundation Board, estimates the POWERplex development will draw 1.25 million annual visitors by hosting up to 70 major events and tournaments each year.

Our goal is to reach as many teams, players, coaches, parents and officials as possible,” said Mike Clithero, a founding board member of BASE and now its vice president.

Described as the largest indoor/outdoor sports complex in the nation, POWERplex will include, in its first phase, 250,000 square feet of climate-controlled space inside a 750-by-275-foot dome. In addition, a temporary dome measuring 600 by 275 feet will cover two turfed fields outside during the winter months.

The domes’ builder will be Arizon Building Systems, a Maryland Heights-based company with manufacturing facilities in Granite City, Illinois. The company has built air-supported domes for colleges and universities, municipalities, sports organizations and other entities throughout the nation. The company’s website includes photos of numerous domed facilities it has erected, including one for the Washington Redskins.

The Sinquefield Center will feature breakout classrooms and a large auditorium equipped for lectures, presentations and interactive video conferencing.

Indoor activities can include four high school/NCAA softball/little league fields, 12 volleyball or eight basketball courts, or three high school/NCAA soccer/lacrosse fields. The space also can be used for youth rallies and conferences, sports tournaments, outings for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, retreats and youth group lock-ins, pro and college sports clinics and camps, concerts and music festivals, health fairs and exhibits, sports exhibits and other activities.

No public subsidies are forecast for the actual campus development, although St. Louis County is working on details for committing up to $10 million for infrastructure needs such as sewers, utilities and roads to the site.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is quoted in a BASE Foundation news release as supporting the project, saying, “We are lagging behind other cities in our youth sports facilities. As a result we lose millions of dollars in revenue every year to other destinations including Indianapolis, Memphis, Kansas City and even Peoria.”

County Councilmember Mark Harder [District 7] also backs the plan and described the development as “an investment in our youth” that also will have a major, positive economic impact on the county.

Also included in plans for the site are hotel accommodations, restaurants, retailers and medical offices. Each for-profit partner on the campus will share a fixed percent of all sales and revenues with the BASE Foundation for project viability and long-term sustainability, according to a news release from the foundation.

Chesterfield officials have signed an agreement calling for the city to lease to the developer 30 acres it now owns, as well as an adjacent 22-acre site it is under contract to purchase.

In response to a question from West Newsmagazine, Dan Buck, the managing partner of BSP, outlined the status of the project’s fundraising/financing efforts as including:

  • Philanthropic commitments totaling $11 million, as well as St. Louis County’s proposed commitment of up to $10 million for infrastructure needs.
  • $15 million from an upcoming BASE Foundation tax exempt bond sale. The bonds are privately backed and are not municipal bonds.
  • $18-$25 million provided by private developers of the hotel, restaurant, retail and recreation and medical facilities on the campus.
  • An estimated $12 million from individual and corporate contributions and naming rights.
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