Hilliard Northwest News

Hilliard chosen as site for Bo Jackson training facility

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Bo Jackson's Elite Sports, a Chicago-area-based training facility, has targeted Hilliard for its first expansion.

Heath Wagner, a regional partner of the company, said it wants to build on city-owned property at the west end of Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park.

The 114,000-square-foot facility would cover about three soccer fields, auxiliary fields of the Hilliard Ohio Soccer Association, but replacement fields will be built elsewhere in the park.

The focus of the training center would be baseball and football, but training would be provided for other sports. The majority of the programs are aimed at children and teenagers preparing for college athletics, but adult programs also would be offered.

City Council President Brett Sciotto called the proposal "an incredible opportunity for the city that will set it apart from other communities."

Wagner said the company looked at sites throughout the United States, including Colorado and Virginia.

Among the criteria for choosing a second site was the number of people living within selected driving distances from the location.

"(About) 1.2 million people live within 30 minutes (of the proposed site in Hilliard) and that put Hilliard at the top of the list," Wagner said.

"A culture of sports" in the region was the clincher, Wagner said.

"Based on the parameters of our study, it's a perfect location," he said.

Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt and Economic Development Director David Meeks visited company executives earlier this year, including Bo Jackson, at the company's Lockport, Ill., facility. Jackson, 49, won a Heisman Trophy while playing football at the University of Auburn. He was the first pick in the NFL draft and also played Major League Baseball for nine years.

Meeks said the Hilliard facility would not bring a large number of new jobs to the city but would provide a great benefit in travel and tourism, as some events at the facility will draw large crowds.

A resolution authorizing Hilliard Parks and Recreation Director Steve Mazer to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Bo Jackson's Elite Sports and HWallace Enterprises was introduced at the Aug. 27 meeting of the Economic and Entrepreneurial Development Committee.

It is scheduled for a first reading Sept. 10.

"We want to have the facility open next fall," Wagner said.

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