Plans revealed 18 months ago for a sports complex and stadium at Evans Farms development in Orange Township have been on hold after developers backed out.
Plans for Project Grand Slam unveiled in 2018 included a 65-acre sports complex in Delaware County filled with athletic fields and stadium seating.
It came with a $20 million price tag and bold predictions of attracting youth sports clubs regionally to the 1,200-acre Evans Farm housing development in Orange Township.
After the plans stalled last year, questions and doubts grew — until now.
New investors have been found, and on Monday, trustees approved the final plans.
Orange Township Trustee Ryan Rivers in November 2018 said the project was fully vetted.
Today, as homes continue to be built and sold, the land along Evans Farm’s western edge is being prepared for a June groundbreaking.
The original 65 acres has dropped to 57 acres. Instead of Grand Slam, it is being called Jennings Sports Park, after Jennings Land Development. The cost, including the land, will be similar, if not greater, than the original estimate.
There will be six baseball/softball diamonds and four soccer/multi-use fields, each with artificial turf, privately owned but available for public use when sports leagues don’t reserve them.
An additional, grass ball field will be available “for any kid on a bike with a glove on his hand who wants to play ball,” said Tony Eyerman, a partner of Evans Farm.
There will be a pavilion with restrooms and concessions.
Rivers, now chairman of the township board, conceded that the original plans were overblown and that the promised financing from a Westerville sports enthusiast and investors “didn’t work out. Some things stalled.”
Concerns were raised about land use and light pollution.
“It appears that too many fields are being squeezed into too small a space, with natural areas being sacrificed in the process,” according to a staff report by the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission.
Light standards were raised from 50 to 70 feet. Eyerman said that will allow light to shine down rather than spread out.
Tom Gerber, a township resident since 1973, has concerns about traffic once everything is built out.
“That’s going to be crazy traffic there,” Gerber said. ”Emergency traffic is not going to be able to get through.”
Officials point to multiple road projects, from widenings, to construction of railroad overpasses to building of a Big Walnut Road interchange to Interstate 71 that would tie in to Evans Farm and its eventual 2,100 new homes.
Rivers said he is happy for the township’s 30,000 residents and those beyond, saying the complex helps fill a “dire need of additional fields to serve our many leagues and and youth groups.”