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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

County celebrates halfway point in sports complex construction

Alachua County honored the installment of the final steel beam of the center’s structure

<p>People taking part in the ceremony to celebrate the completion of building a new sports center in Celebration Pointe on Friday, May 6, 2022.</p>

People taking part in the ceremony to celebrate the completion of building a new sports center in Celebration Pointe on Friday, May 6, 2022.

The new Alachua County Sports Event Center is one beam closer to opening its structure with an NCAA-approved indoor track and tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. 

The county hosted a topping off ceremony Friday to honor the installment of the final steel beam of the structure. The $38 million center, set to open early 2023, reached its halfway checkpoint. 

The building, spanning more than the length of two football fields, is located next to 5001 Celebration Pointe Ave. It’s estimated to bring in about $77 million per year to the county, according to an Alachua County press release.

“I’m hoping that this is going to serve as a model going forward that we can combine our resources and that we can see more big projects like this so that we can all grow together and  everyone can experience the success that we know is going to happen in this place,” County Commission Chair Marihelen Wheeler said.

The final beam became a time capsule for generations to come after the community was invited to sign it. At least 50 people came up, about 10 at a time, and chatted as they covered the steel with optimistic messages toward the project’s future.

One message read, “It’s been a journey — what a great project!” Another wrote, “What’s good Gainesville Alachua County!”

The sports center is projected to create more than 1,000 jobs with about $26 million in yearly wages, Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman said. It will also bring in an estimated $12 million in hotel bookings and generate more than $1 million in sales tax each year.

The 23 hotels and dozens of restaurants in a three-mile radius of Celebration Pointe heavily influenced the sports center’s location, Florida Senator Keith Perry said.

“You have to have facilities where you can get something to eat; you have to have facilities that you can go stay at,” Perry said. “This is just a dynamic place.”

Perry said his family traveled southeast America for his daughters’ club volleyball tournaments, sometimes going even further to Dallas, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico. Gainesville’s center, he said, will be better than any establishment they have visited.

“This will be a facility that will compete with any facility anywhere,” Perry said.

The county’s Tourist Development Tax supplied $30 million to the project, the press release said. A majority of the revenue comes from hotels and Airbnbs in the area, County Communications Director Mark Sexton said. 

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The county has recovered since the pandemic and is experiencing one of its best financial years, Sexton said. The Tourist Development Tax is bringing in a new record of about $6 million a year, Sexton said.

Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell said they learned “folks don’t skimp on their kids” when it comes to budgeting expendable income. He said people were still driving hundreds of miles to take their kids to events during the pandemic, and he expects the facility to attract 1,000 people every weekend.

Cornell said the center is expected to spur an additional $80 million in commercial development around Celebration Pointe.

Contact Namari Lock at Follow her on Twitter @Namari_L.

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Namari Lock

Namari Lock is a second-year journalism student and a General Assignment Reporter for the metro desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator, and she is eager to dive into whatever story comes her way. When she’s not working, she is probably sleeping or binging true crime documentaries. 

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