City Council Members were impressed with plans for a glitzy new 16-court tennis center, but wary of financial obligations.
Eight indoor courts and, eventually, eight outdoor courts. Classrooms, a community room, a computer lab and a retail pro shop. All for public use.
Those amenities and more would be featured in a proposed new Shakopee Tennis & Education Center, whose details are firming up.
The plan, along with independent feasibility and financial studies and visual renderings prepared by Cuningham Group architects, was presented last week to the Shakopee City Council.
Kevin Hamlin and John VandeCastle, members of the Shakopee Tennis Association, were seeking council members’ informal reactions before the group begins preparing marketing materials in advance of fundraising efforts.
The plans drew mainly enthusiasm, but also a few questions. Most importantly perhaps: What’s the risk to the city?
Council Member Jay Whiting asked if the tennis association would own the building (yes) and what would happen if the facility was a flop and eventually went bankrupt. “Would the city take it over?”
That would be negotiated as part of an agreement at a later date, Hamlin and VandeCastle said.
Said Council Member Mike Luce: “We just don’t want this thing back in our laps. It’s a beautiful building. I hope you can pull it off.”
The facility itself is to be funded entirely by donations. It would be built on land in the city’s Shutrop Park.
The entire complex would cost about $16.5 million, according to a study by Mortenson Construction. Phase One, just the main indoor courts building, would cost about $13 million.
The association would lease the land from the city for a nominal fee. Once the complex is built, recreational users would pay a small yearly fee, with a discount for Shakopee residents.
Leagues and tournaments could be played on the courts. Group lessons or individual lessons from a pro would be offered. Community groups, school programs and seniors could hold classes in the classrooms and computer lab. For observers, there would be an open, elevated viewing area above the indoor courts. A retailer would be sought to lease and run the pro shop.
Last year the city’s tennis association said it has seen rapid growth in its summer adult and youth programs in the last several years. But there is a need and a desire for indoor courts, the association said.
A feasibility study done by a consultant from New York examined numerous facets of the demographics within an eight-minute radius of the proposed facility, calling that the primary market, and within a 12-minute radius considered the secondary market.
The consultant determined that the facility is “very feasible,” the highest rating, partly because it has no nearby competition. The nearest indoor courts are at the Eden Prairie Life Time Fitness, which charges hefty fees for court time. There also are indoor courts near Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and at the University of Minnesota, the study said.
“It’s a very feasible operation if we come into this with no debt from the building,” Hamlin told the council. “It’s always been our plan to raise funds and go in debt-free.”
Hamlin said the association would expect to run the facility at a slight loss the first year, but with profits in years two and three. The studies included proposed hours, proposed court-usage projections and proposed costs of lessons.
‘Pie in the sky’
The renderings and cost estimates were for a “pie in the sky” facility, VandeCastle said. The project could be built all at once or in phases, with Phase One being the “big-box structure” of the courts, locker rooms and restrooms. Phase Two would be the education center. Remaining phases would include the lobby, courtyard and outdoor courts.
The cost estimates were based on the Baseline Center at the U, which was built in 2001, taking into account a 4 percent increase in costs every year and the fact that the Baseline Center is about twice the size of the proposed local facility and includes an ice rink.
“The numbers are only going to go down as the plan tightens up,” VandeCastle said.
Council Member Matt Lehman asked about the city and Park Board doing joint programming in the facilities classrooms and computer lab. The answer: Possibly.
The organizers said a date has not been set to begin fundraising. That would likely take 18 to 24 months. If the money couldn’t be raised, the project would fold, they said. If it could, construction likely would take another year.
In a perfect world, they said, the doors could open as soon as 2018.
Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284