Goddard Destination takes advantage of youth sports boom

By Sam Jack

GODDARD – Goddard Destination Project developer Bruce Neviaser’s most notable previous success is the Great Wolf Resorts chain of indoor waterparks, which was recently valued at $1.35 billion. 

Though the new development in Goddard will also include a swimming facility and hotel, its focus is on a different, burgeoning market: youth and amateur sports.

A 2013 study found that travel to youth sports competitions accounted for $7 billion in U.S. economic activity that year, and the number has almost certainly increased in the years since. More than 21 million American youths are involved in organized sports outside of school.

Neviaser and City of Goddard officials expect both the swimming facility and the outdoor baseball complex to attract tournaments, traveling teams, and training camps and programs from across the region.

“There’s USA Swimming, USA Water Polo, masters swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, NCAA competition, Paralympics, and the stuff we’re familiar with such as KSHSAA activities and the various pro-am associations for aquatics,” said Goddard city administrator Brian Silcott, listing potential users of the pool facilities.

Neviaser and his team consulted with experts on swimming pool construction to make the main racing pool as conducive to speed as possible – an attractive feature for organizers and competitors.

“We haven’t specifically done a competitive swim facility before, which is why we engaged the consultants to make sure we did it right. ... Our primary consultant was an individual that was the former swim coach of the Olympic team,” Neviaser said. “We’ve also consulted with a firm in Illinois that is focused on the kind of thing we ended up doing.”

The pool will be among the fastest in the world, Neviaser said. Developers considered baseball and soccer facilities as another draw for traveling amateur teams and ended up deciding that baseball is the stronger market.

“Having been involved with other hotels that were affiliated with sports venues, we know that that is a good model,” said Neviaser. “We were speaking with an appraiser, and the first thing he said was that the baseball tournament business in Kansas is incredibly powerful. We ended up with four baseball fields, and there is extra land where we can expand once we get this first phase done. We’ll see what the demand looks like.”

Neviaser emphasized that the development would have amenities for the local community as well as visitors.

“We first approached this as a competitive swim facility, where that would be the basic model of use, but doing our research, we found we needed to introduce a stronger community-based aquatic component to this,” he said. “Whether it’s learning to swim, neonatal, physical therapy, you name it. So we kind of made this a merger of those two components.”

The sports bar, restaurant and entertainment complex should also draw local business, Neviaser said.

Neviaser earlier predicted that construction would be completed in April 2017. He did not have much additional information about the timeline but said things were on track.

Hall of Fame partnership has slow start

One feature of the pool complex that has been promoted by developers – a museum exhibit and gift shop presented in partnership with the International Swimming Hall of Fame – is apparently off to a slow start.

Hall of Fame president and CEO Bruce Wigo said he had had no contact with the Goddard developers in more than a year.

“We had an interesting conversation and it was mentioned in initial releases that we’re involved, but nothing beyond that has happened, to my knowledge,” Wigo said.

Neviaser said his organization had dropped the ball by not keeping in touch but still wants to proceed with the partnership.

“We are absolutely moving ahead with that. It’s programmed into the whole development,” said Neviaser. “We’re still engaged but unfortunately had this pause while we were working on other stuff.”