WARSAW — A quarter century of softball, baseball, soccer and other sports have been played at Warsaw’s City-County Athletic Complex and the staff of the 65-acre facility expect the newly-independent complex to keep evolving and blazing new trails.
With the expected construction of a new $7 million indoor facility, which could get started within a few months, the self-sufficiency and revenue-generating capabilities for the non-profit appears to be limitless.
“We are working on a project right now to build an indoor facility that will be 440 feet by 240 feet in width, open span so we can have two full-sized softball fields inside of it as well as a full-sized soccer field and multiple smaller fields,” said Executive Director Karl Swihart. “We’re going to use it as a sports arena, but also an all-purpose facility.”
Swihart said the potential uses for the new building would be limited only to the imagination.
“We’ll be able to host home and garden shows, car shows, anything you can imagine in there,” he said. Aside from the playing field area, which will take up the bulk of the building’s space, the yet-to-be-named structure will also house the CCAC office, an event center with capacity for 792 guests, a catering kitchen and a pro shop where garments and trophies are made.
“We’re hoping to break ground this fall,” Swihart said. “We’re in the very early stages of fundraising.”
Swihart said he hopes to fund the project through grants, donations and financing.
“This is a big game changer for us,” he said. “This is going to take us to a whole new level. This will really increase our income and allow us to be more self-sustaining.”
For a virtual tour of the new facility, click here.
Swihart began his tenure in 2006, about 12 years after local softball players began swinging for the fences at the Old Road 30 facility. Prior to 1994, when the CCAC opened, softball players played in leagues while sharing time on only one field field. A total of two diamonds existed near Center Lake, where Central Park now sits. One field was used for women’s softball and one for the men.
When the change was made, league play immediately became less bottlenecked with four fields each for men and women. A collection of soccer fields were later added.
“We started working in 2009 or 2010 on trying to purchase the property or get it donated,” said Swihart. As was the case from the beginning, the CCAC leased the ground from R.R. Donnelley & Sons, now known as LSC Communications.
“If Donnelly ever decided to close, this could be included in the real estate,” said Swihart. “We didn’t want that to happen, since all the development on the property was ours. We just felt more secure owning the property.”
With help from Kosciusko County’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and the K21 Foundation, the CCAC was able to buy the land. “They put the money up for us to purchase the property. It’s free and clear. It’s ours now, which is a big deal because when we’re looking at doing big projects … we can use the entire property as collateral.”
The CCAC receives a little more than $60,000 of its annual $750,000 budget from the city of Warsaw and the CVB.
“So, the rest of it, we generate ourselves.” Oversight for the CCAC is done through a 13-member board of directors.
Profitability Through Diversity
The bulk of CCAC’s revenue is generated through the hosting of tournaments.
“It’s very hard to do because you get one tournament that washes out, and that’s $30,000 off your budget,” said Swihart. “This has been a very bad year with weather, so we’ve had a lot of tournaments canceled this year. This year is probably going to be our biggest struggle since I’ve been here. But, we’re going to make it.”
The construction of CCAC’s first indoor facility, dubbed its multi-sport building, gave the complex the ability to host activities despite what the calendar read.
“We went from a spring, summer, fall facility to a year-round facility In 2011 when we built our addition that we call our multi-sport building,” he said. “We built it more so for batting tunnels, but we rarely rent it out for batting tunnels anymore. We’ve got pickleball that’s in there four days a week, we’ve got a tumbling program that’s in there three nights a week, we have winter youth indoor soccer and youth basketball as well as a golf simulator.”
He said the building also plays host to professional wrestling events.
Even prior to the introduction of the future indoor softball arena, Swihart said the CCAC has made a name for itself.
“We’re nationally known as a premier facility,” he said. Warsaw’s CCAC was inducted into the National Softball Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012 in the park category.
“A few years ago, we talked about CCAC having $1.6 million in economic impact that comes into the community,” he said. It’s gotta be quite a bit bigger than that now. Very few communities have something like this, and it’s a gem for the community. When people look at communities to move to, they look at schooling, they look at jobs and they look at recreational activities. This is one of those quality-of-life things to have in your back yard is huge for any community.”