As the first homeowners move into Evans Farm in the next few weeks, plans are underway for a major youth sports complex in the planned 1,200-acre Orange Township development.
Project Grand Slam will include six tournament-style baseball diamonds with artificial turf, an indoor arena with stadium seating and a variety of amenities for various sports including baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer and track and field.
The complex is expected to cost $20 million, funded privately by several investors who had been looking for an ideal location in Westerville and other central Ohio locations. That's when the Evans Farm property in southern Delaware County was proposed, said Ryan Rivers, an Orange Township trustee.
Eric Heminger, a teacher and coach in Westerville, who also owns a sports management business, was a major organizer of the project, said Rivers.
"He was putting together some partners on this, to put some money behind it, and he got kind of stuck. He could never get a solid site," Rivers said. "The demand here is just huge. I think there's going to be a lot of enthusiasm for it."
The concept follows similar, but larger, plans announced in June for the massive Planet Oasis sports and recreation complex at the southeast quadrant of Routes 36/37 and Interstate 71.
Last month, Blue Horseshoe Ventures of New Albany announced that it was pursuing the $2 billion project without partner David Glimcher, who has been the public face of the project. Glimcher, a Columbus developer, countered that his is still in charge and moving forward with his plans to include a water park, indoor surfing and skydiving, an e-sports venue and a large saltwater lake surrounded by sandy beaches and hotels.
Other plans included electric go-karts on Indy-designed courses, virtual reality games and a shooting-gallery.
Rivers said that, unlike with Project Oasis, Delaware County officials have been working closely with Evans Farm planners on its sports complex.
When Planet Oasis was announced, Rivers said, "everyone was looking at each other and saying 'Is this for real?'"
He said Project Grand Slam, platted on about 65 acres in the west-central area of the 1,200-acre Evans Farm project, is fully vetted and not a "slick marketing scheme."
Demand for recreational facilities continues to grow in the area. Orange Township's population has swelled to more than 30,000 — about twice that of the city of Worthington, and triple what is was in 1990.
Tony Eyerman, an Evans Farm partner who specializes in landscaping and land use, said the project will be akin to Berliner Park in Columbus, which hosts major softball tournaments.
"We've kind of taken it up a notch from an upscale park to something that could be a regional destination," he said. "It certainly will meet all of the community's needs and our residents' needs."