The city of West Monroe took steps this week to determine the feasibility of building an $18-million indoor sports facility across from Ike Hamilton Expo Center.
During its regular meeting Tuesday, the West Monroe Board of Aldermen approved hiring Cargill Associates Inc. to conduct a feasibility study and prepare a capital campaign plan for the proposed sports facility as well as improvements to the city’s downtown area.
After the meeting, Mayor Staci Mitchell told The Ouachita Citizen the study would explore possible investors for the proposed indoor sports facility.
“It’s a study to determine how a capital campaign would function,” Mitchell said. “It’s to determine if we can raise money for it and what is the public support of the project.”
Mitchell referred to a study conducted by the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) five years ago that indicated an indoor sports facility was an opportunity for boosting Ouachita Parish tourism.
“We are working with the CVB on that,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a done deal, but we are looking at the potential of it and getting it going.”
Mitchell explained the study showed an indoor sports facility could be more successful than an outdoor sports complex because the outdoor sports facilities located in the parish such as the Sterlington Sports Complex and the outdoor facilities at the University of Louisiana-Monroe filled the market.
“Something different would be an indoor sports facility,” Mitchell said. “It is meant to be an economic driver in our community.”
Mitchell referred to a recent study that stated the best location for an indoor sports facility in West Monroe would be in front of the Ike because of the hotels located in the area.
“When I came into office two years ago, we knew we needed to be able to invest in something in that area,” Mitchell said. “That’s why the EDD (economic development district) was formed and the tax levied.”
According to Mitchell, an indoor sports facility would have a number of economic benefits, including an economic impact of $22.5 million in annual net economic output. The facility would bring an estimated 124,000 visitors from out of town to the parish with a total of 190,000 visitors a year. The facility would create 321 new full-time and part-time jobs, and have a $1-billion cumulative economic output over a 30-year period.
Mitchell explained the facility’s benefit to the area could make the surrounding property near the Ike more attractive for retailers.
“Retail is going to locate where people are, so this would actually bring more people to the area and make it more attractive for a retailer,” she said.
The facility would host tournaments for sports such as volleyball, pickleball, basketball, weightlifting, cheerleading and dance, according to Mitchell’s chief of staff Courtney Hornsby.
“That’s the primary purpose of an indoor sports facility, to bring in sporting tournaments,” Hornsby said.