Basketball under the lights

I end up on a lot of courts after the sun goes down. While the sun is up- I can knock on doors and talk to voters, but once it’s dark- it’s time to hang or repair nets.

Last night, was mostly repairing, but I had a few interesting experiences. There is a little park in the McCook field neighborhood- just up Webster Street from the Kroc center. It has a single hoops court- with a hard volleyball court that probably hasn’t had a net up for years. Four guys were sitting in their cars on the volleyball court- talking. Once they figured out I was the green net and stencil guy- they were really glad to see me. They grew up in that ’hood, and this was still their “home court.” They were telling me if there were lights on, they’d still be hooping it up.

Next stop was Parkside homes courts, there are three- a double and a single. The tree limbs were still sitting on the side of the single, and there was evidence that the courts had been getting some play. As I was fixing one of the nets- my visions of sportsplex on the site were coming back- and I realized, this could be the ultimate hoops destination all summer long. If we built 20 courts, and could have that many games going at once, with lights on- and stands, and food trucks, we could bring some people down the same way that the baseball fields used to- the ones that sit dark most nights too, thanks to endless road construction, budget cuts and a general lack of interest by the city in using these resources anymore. For some reason, the idea of recreation as economic development has been lost in this city.

Photo of Dave Moore from Superfly barber shop with the burkham park backboards

Dave Moore of Superfly Barber shop wants to know why our backboards aren’t cutting it?

After hanging and fixing more nets- at dark courts where I knew we’d have had games going if the lights were on- at Broadway and Superior and Riverview- I went by Burkham park- home of the sorriest two courts in the city- where maybe one of the backboards is at regulation height- and it’s only a partial backboard, the opposite rim looks more like a roller coaster- and is probably at 8 feet, and the other court, which only has 1 rim is at 8 foot as well- it was bright as day- the lights were on. Go figure.

We’ve got kids playing on rollouts all over the city- on the street, depending on street lights- so you know there is a need. It’s time Dayton, let’s flip that switch and bring nighttime basketball back. It’s better our kids are shooting baskets instead of each other.

Randy Gunlock just discovers Esrati’s Sportsplex proposal

The headline is me being sarcastic. I’ve pushed the idea of a central massive sports/rec plex on the former public housing site between 1-75, the river, Helena and Keowee for years. I suggested instead of 6 new Dayton rec centers- we just build one amazing centralized one- instead, we ended with 2 semi-lame ones.

The plan got a small boost when the Kroc Center went in just due East of the location- taking care of the basketball component- but, my original concept also called for a true Olympic pool, ice rink, even speed skating track and velodromes- things not necessarily the norm. A put-Dayton-on-the-map sort of facility. It was to be integrated with a Dayton Public Schools central tutoring lab, media center to give kids places to go after school other than Third and Main- but, instead, we have an empty field.

Now, we hear Mr. Gunlock has a plan for a “$35 million regional youth sports complex” partially funded with tax dollars- and probably on his property. Nothing like propping up your property values with tax-supported amenities, huh Mr. G?

From the Dayton Daily news today:

Developer Randy Gunlock called for a regional campaign to raise as much as $35 million in private funds for a year-round regional youth sports complex.

Gunlock said he would be a major funder of the proposed youth sports complex, but that others would be needed to pull it off. “I’m continuously talking about this. I think it’s important. Whether there’s going to be enough support in the community, I don’t know,” he said in a phone interview Thursday night.

Gunlock’s family company, RG Properties, is the developer of Austin Landing, the $150-million, 142-acre development near the Montgomery-Warren County line. RG Properties has developed more than 10 million square feet of commercial real estate in four states.

Gunlock said development of such a facility is essential to keeping families in the Miami Valley and drawing families to regional or national events in the Dayton-Cincinnati area.

He declined to comment on how much he would donate to the project or where it should be located, other than to say the complex should be built somewhere along the corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton. “The reality is … these communities are growing together. Have been 50 years. Will continue to,” he said.

Already, youth and amateur sports tourism are credited with bringing more than $100 million a year to the area — just a fraction of $5 billion to $7 billion in national revenues traced to yearly business activities springing from youth and amateur sports tourism.

Although a youth hockey supporter, Gunlock said the facility should offer facilities for soccer and lacrosse. He noted plans in West Carrollton and Miami Twp. involving youth sports facilities.

Plans for youth sports complexes, so far focused on outdoor facilities, already are unfolding 11 miles apart in Warren and Butler counties, both so far to be funded by taxpayer dollars.

via $35M campaign for youth sports complex launched.

The magic tonic of “sport tourism” which starts the economic development types salivating is yet another distraction from solving real problems in our community- like the ones Gunlock has already caused by constructing new office space in a community that’s already overbuilt. Adding in his special income tax free zone for the rich only, he’s sucked the last bits of life out of downtown while draining the county coffers of development dollars building his private interchange at Austin Road.

We’ve already seen one attempt to illegally jack up the hotel tax to build an ice arena for Sir Gunlock that nobody had discussed or justified. Now, we’re seeing a second attempt.

We’re also hearing rumblings out of West Carrollton to build a soccer complex and arena for the Dayton Dutch Lions. Why is is impossible to have a true regional plan? Could it be that our County Commission is totally ineffective in coordinating the many fiefdoms of the region we call Dayton?

Our one true regional success has been Metroparks- wouldn’t it make sense to look at having them coordinate regional sports related recreation facilities? If they need experts on how to build effective recreational facilities and run programs- they should talk to the City of Kettering which by far is the leader in creating parks and programming for all residents from their BMX track and Skateboard park to soccer fields, and Rec Center complete with ice rink. No other community comes close in the region at providing real community amenities- and I left out the Rosewood arts center, Trent Arena and the Fraze Pavillion.

Mr. Gunlock may be able to pledge some money to a project- but, let’s make sure it’s our project not his- we’ve already gone broke building his fields into dreams, and they’ve cost us dearly.

Quality of life is economic development. Let’s organize it better.

The Dayton Daily News has turned over a new leaf- and has gone on a waste-busting spree. First up wasn’t the clown corps  in charge of tax giveaways- the “economic development” people- which we have in abundance. Nope- it’s the people in charge of providing public amenities.

First was yesterday’s “news” that most municipalities lose money on public golf courses. Well, they also lose money on parks and playgrounds- as you could look at the “opportunity costs” involved vs. having housing or businesses on parkland- plus the cost of upkeep. However, golf isn’t the most practical of things to subsidize. The number of golfers in our population is relatively low because we’re not a retirement community- and golf is a game for those with plenty of time on their hands and usually some money, too. Also- it takes up an awful lot of space for relatively few players. Compare a soccer complex with a measly 10 full-size fields, 2 kids-sized, throw in some volleyball, a BMX track, a half dozen baseball diamonds- and even a pond, picnic shelters and parking, wait- did I just describe Delco Park- and you have less space, with higher use than 3 tees at a golf course.

Also, public golf courses compete directly with private golf courses- who have to pay taxes on all that land- not a fair equation.

You did notice one thing though- Dayton was one of the few communities to break even on golf, imagine that.

Rob Drydek Skate Park in KetteringNext up in the DDN hit list is the new Kettering water park- and mention of the closed Splash Moraine. Kettering understands better than most communities that good parks and recs are good for building a good community. They also have good schools and have managed to have a modicum of diversity as opposed to our outer-ring communities. Besides the aforementioned Delco Park- they also have a world famous signature skateboard park, courtesy of native son Rob Drydek and DC Shoes, and an ice arena- the only public hockey-sized skating rink in Montgomery County (where you will find me playing Huff-n-Puff hockey each winter). We could also add that Kettering has an amazing complex at the High School- and James Trent Arena- open to residents, an arts program at Rosewood and the Fraze pavilion which hosts concerts- including free ones- all summer long.

Compare that to Dayton- which has no skate park, no dog park, no BMX track, no soccer facility, closed its arts center, handed over Island Park band shell to Metroparks, closed pools, and a useless sized ice rink under the stewardship of Metroparks at Riverscape.

Kettering gets quality of life as a measure of success and understands that healthy cities have healthy residents. Dayton on the other hand would rather engage in crony-capitalism and try to artificially prop up home values by subsidizing both for-profit and non-profit builders in adding new homes (See the Charles Simms homes or the ones being built by East End Community Services or the St. Mary’s Development refurbishment of Marvin Gardens) while we have an abundance of housing stock that we are simultaneously spending huge money to tear down- or “deconstruct.”

Read the title of the person in charge of the new Kettering water park in this DDN quote:

“There is a huge demand for quality recreational experiences in Kettering and a huge demand for water in Kettering,” said Bill Tschirhart, the Kettering parks’ business services manager. “We gave them exactly what they wanted.”

via Kettering’s new waterpark fills void, draws crowds.

The “Kettering parks’ business services manager”- that they understand that parks and recs is a business- and a service to the community is how advanced Kettering gets it.

We do have a regional entity that gets quality of life as economic development- it’s called Five Rivers Metroparks- and if greater Dayton were smart- we’d move all parks and recs programs under its authority, provide Metropasses to Montgomery County residents based on the contributions of their communities’ current investment in recs programs and on average income of the community. Cities would pay into the program based on census numbers- with fixed contributions per person and we’d start seeing a true quality of life infrastructure system that is balanced and well run.

Kettering deserves kudos and study by every other community in the region for its mastery of this part of government. The rest of the region needs to start understanding that we will only begin to advance as a community once we start working together.

B-cycle and sustainablity. Bike share in Dayton, build on strengths

So much focus has been on what we don’t have in Dayton- yet, we take for granted what we have all the time. I just got back from a five mile run on the bikeway, going past Garden Station, Deeds Point, Kettering Fields, the Canoe Club,  Island Park and Riverscape. It was a beautiful day for a run. It was a good day for day-dreaming of what we could have.

If you’ve read my posts about Sportsplex, you know I envision a huge rec-center, outdoor sports HQ extending over from Kettering Fields on the land formerly occupied by Parkside homes. But, that’s a tens-of-millions proposition. For now, we should at least considering converting the land to soccer/football fields as a way to bring more people down to this beautiful area. Think Delco Park in Kettering as a model. With people come opportunities for selling food, sporting goods, daycare etc.

However, the problem still, and always will be the same- with every additional person coming down to the area, comes a car. Cars require gas, cars require parking spaces. Parking lots are expensive. They are the reason that skyscrapers aren’t being built in Dayton anymore- with each cubicle comes the requirement of a parking space. Think about it.

This is why we would see instant transformation, especially of “summer spaces” like Kettering Fields, if we had a fleet of easy access bicycles available for shuttling people from parking to playing fields- and from playing fields to fast food (up Keowee, downtown). By building on the strengths of our bike paths already in place, and adding bicycles- we’ve changed everything.

B-Cycle is a relatively inexpensive addition to our community. For less than the naming rights of the Dragons’ field, or a few high school football fields. A major player like Premier Health Partners, Kettering Health Network, DP&L or the like, could transform the city – and give themselves an amazing advertising vehicle (pun intended) to spread their message about the kind of community we have- and the kind we want to have.

I made a presentation at the LexisNexis World Usability Day event on Thursday. The theme was sustainability. When you consider how much pollution a car spews in just a short 4-mile trip (which is what a majority of our trips end up being) or that the car is the second highest expense in most households, adding bicycles everywhere could make a huge impact.

I’m on a whirlwind mission to get this launched, at least in demonstration mode with a limited installation, by next July. If you are interested in helping make this happen, please let me know.

“The Dream” Sportsplex going to Clinton County

It’s unfortunate, but the powers that be in almost every single Montgomery County community couldn’t see past the gruff x-cop with the lack of polish. J.R. Erwin is taking his “Dream” sportsplex, with all of its great public benefits to Clinton County according to County Administrator and Economic Development Director Dr. Mark Brooker.

The $100+ million plan provides for best in class sports facilities to host travel sports teams and to be an integral part of the quality of life in Clinton County. It is being looked at as a public/private partnership, which will create jobs and opportunities for a community that has been kicked in the ass by a multinational corporation (DHL). After giving away the farm in the way of tax abatements, and “economic development” that was nothing more than corporate welfare, Wilmington and the County have learned their lesson and focused on investments that benefit their citizens instead of shareholders.

In the meantime, we’re still building interchanges to undeveloped property at Austin Pike, to incentivize sprawl. Montgomery County Development head, Joe Tuss refused to meet with J.R. State Rep Peggy Lehner laughed about my trying to explain the ways of the “boys in the back room” that shut J.R. out, while rolling out the welcome mat to Randy Gunlock et. al.

I tried to get the Dayton Daily News to write a story about J. R. and his plan to no avail. Maybe now, he’ll get some coverage.

His concept is strikingly similar to my “Dayton Sportsplex” concept that I’ve been talking about for the Parkside Homes location for the last 10 years. Luckily, I believe that having one in Dayton and one in Wilmington would make the area much more attractive to potential employers and that these types of projects add more to site selection than any amount of tax abatement/corporate welfare “economic development” programs ever will.

Congratulations J.R.

Dreams not allowed in Dayton unless you’re rich.

If your name is Randy Gunlock, and you have a private ice rink in your back yard, the County bends over backwards to kiss your butt and try to hand you money for a hockey stadium at Austin Road. They even try to sneak a tax increase through on the hotel tax just to back your dream.

If you’re J. R. Erwin, and have been busting your butt for several years putting together a plan very similar to my “Sportsplex” concept- you barely get a return phone call.

J.R. called me yesterday and gave me some background and links to this site that describes his dream. It’s a big dream, and would probably bring more sports tourism business to the area than we’re ready for. But, if you don’t swing for the fences, why play the game at all?

The Dream Sports Arenas cater to the needs of youth “Select” sports. The Dream will produce over 891,500 square feet, “under roof” of “paradise” for every family. The Dream will be the largest “Select” youth sports facility in the U.S.A. and overseas.

via Dream Sports Arena.

I’ll be getting a copy of the business plan tomorrow. I’ve also contacted Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley on J. R.’s behalf and talked to Dayton Daily News sports columnist supreme, Tom Archdeacon about it.

Maybe we can at least give JR a soapbox and see if we can put some heads together to see what’s possible. My first choice location is the Parkside homes site- which would dovetail well with Kettering Fields, Island Park and the new Kroc Center. With great highway visibility and access, and a central location it would do a lot to strengthen the urban core. Another location that might work would be the former truck and bus plant- since we can’t seem to explain to GM that we should still be able to build vehicles in that plant- since we helped fund parts of it.

The big question is why can’t we discuss ideas in public, why can’t we talk about big “what if” type ideas, and why can’t we try to swing for the fences?

SportsPlex lite is alive in Dayton!

While our city “leaders” pursue a pipe dream clone of the Greene to be called “Ball Park Village” a private investor sees the value of a first class recreation complex near a highway:

Refurbished facility could be sports event destination
Mike Murphy walked through the rain recently to give a brief tour of the Action Sports Center…

In the month since Murphy became the facilities managing partner, he has been as much trash collector as marketing manager, and as much janitor as engineer. While re-branding the former Gateway Sports Park, the former minor-league pitcher has noticed everything from scuff marks to soccer field layout issues.

In his mind, Murphy envisions a flawless facility that will become a major destination for area youth sports and beyond. To get there, the engineer by education and marketing manager by experience will handle all of the centers issues, from his “gotta-dos” and “need-to-dos” whiteboard lists to business meetings and presentations.

“Theres really as much brute force labor as spending a lot of money,” Murphy said.

Thats because, Murphy said, hes starting with a good product. The complex has eight diamonds for baseball and softball with lights and scoreboards, five outdoor soccer fields, an indoor soccer field, a 29,000-square-foot indoor facility and a driving range. He envisions the 40-acre property near Ohio 4 east of downtown Dayton as a corporate retreat destination as well as a place for both youth players and parents to enjoy tournaments.

But theres work to do. The driving range, for example, boasts the unique lake setup — golfers hit into the water — but has been closed because the ball-retrieving device doesnt work properly.

“Add it to the board,” Murphy said. “Thats a gotta-do.”

With enough gotta-dos checked off, many feel the Action Sports Center can become a draw for youth sports tournaments.

“We’ve been working to bring some national-level World Series tournaments here,” said Gregg Beemer, vice president of operations for the Midwest Ohio Baseball League. “That place, when run properly, managed properly and staffed properly — which are all things I know Mike is intimately aware of — would be a great spot.”

And youth tournaments mean money. It was estimated last month that the Warrior Soccer Classic brought close to $7.5 million in economic impact to the area.

“The impact of a youth or amateur sports event is significant,” said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are a number of cities we compete against for these events, and a facility like this is a great asset.”

Not just for tournaments, Murphy hopes, but day-to-day activities. He envisions holding corporate retreats using his facilities and beefing up the indoor and outdoor soccer leagues. He has discussed partnering with a day-care service to help parents juggling multiple children while at the complex. Picnics are also possible.

As a coach and parent himself, Murphy has experienced tournaments first-hand. It’s most important, he said, for the players and parents to be entertained as much away from the field as on the field.

“Its a mini-sports cruise ship,” Murphy said. “Thats how I’m viewing this.”

While I envision more than just baseball and football fields on the Parkside homes location- things like an indoor football facility, track, velodrome, natatorium, ice arena, BMX track, skateboard park, whitewater park and more- the idea of sports facilities as an economic development engine makes more sense than a pop-up disney land shopping site- with cookie-cutter chains. Tied in with the new Kroc basketball facility, we would have a ribbon of sports complexes from Downtown over to Old North Dayton- all tied in with our amazing bikeway system.

It’s unfortunate our city “leaders” think that 2 mediocre rec centers are better than 1 mega one. Look at how Kettering has their complex including water park, pool and ice arena on Glengarry drive. Need I say more?

Ballpark Village strikes out? Maybe, sportsplex will get a chance?

When Mandalay started doing a survey about putting an AHL team at Austin Road, you had to imagine that they were backing away from BallPark Village. Unfortunately, the city has been chasing this dream too- without any real thought about how adding even more retail inventory, in yet another location, will further put pressure on existing retail space inventory.

Maybe, it’s time to look at Sportsplex– something that really doesn’t exist yet- and add something new to the picture?

City withdraws Ballpark Village funding request; project update expected at 1 p.m. – Dayton Business Journal:
The city announced that a 1 p.m. press conference will be held today at City Hall regarding the Ballpark Village development.

Speculation has swirled in recent days that co-developer Bear Creek Capital and the city are dissolving their partnership.

City spokesperson Tom Biedenharn refused to confirm that information this morning.

“It is going to be an update. I can’t give more detail,” Biedenharn said. “The issue of the partners will discussed.”

Officials with Cincinnati-based Bear Creek are declining comment until after the press conference.

At a Montgomery County ED/GE Advisory Committee meeting Thursday morning, City Manager Rashad Young withdrew a request the city made for $1.5 million in county funding for a parking garage and office tower that would be part of the downtown development.

“Sufficed to say, we intend to be back in the fall with a request for the same dollar amount,” Young said. “We are still working with some issues with our developing partners.”

Besides Bear Creek Capital, California-based Mandalay Entertainment — which owns the Dayton Dragons — is the other developing partner on the $230 million project. Mandalay’s California officials could not be reached for comment.

Guess this will kind of kill off whatever press Dominics was hoping to get on their new venture announcement… (no it isn’t a new Dominics in the University Shoppes across from UD) it’s salad dressing.

A new sports and concert arena in Montgomery County?

Conventions, Sports & Leisure International is sending out e-mails to do some research on a new arena:

“Subject: Possible New Sports Arena Off I-75

Dear Ohio Resident,

We would like to share some news regarding the potential development of a new sports arena in Montgomery County.  The arena is envisioned to host minor league sports, concerts, family shows, commencements, other sporting events, including collegiate sports, and a variety of other educational, cultural and entertainment events.  Additionally, the arena is expected to operate as a component of a larger development that could potentially include a mix of unique uses including retail, commercial, hospitality and residential.

As your thoughts and opinions are extremely important to our initial development decisions, we would like to invite your participation in a 10-minute internet survey as part of a strategic study that will help shape our plans for the prospective new arena.

Your time, insight, and advice are deeply appreciated and will help determine the future of sports entertainment venues in Montgomery County.  Thank you.


Lawrence King
CSL International
5741 Legacy Drive, Suite 310
Plano, TX  75024″

Jumping over to their website- they have a bit about themselves:


Founded in 1988, Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL) is a leading advisory and planning firm specializing in providing consulting services to the convention, sport, entertainment and visitor industries. CSL was established for the specific purpose of providing a source of focused research and expertise in these industries. Services include new/expanded event facility feasibility studies, organizational reviews/performance enhancement studies, destination master planning, industry benchmarking, negotiation assistance and related services.

Could this be a red herring? Part of the UD Master plan?

A bold move at Miller Lane or by the Dayton Mall? The first steps toward “Sportsplex” or a companion facility to the Dragons in “Ballpark Village?” Anyone want to ponder what’s going on?

The big problem is we’re getting smaller.

Population loss isn’t the same as weight loss. Putting people back in your community isn’t easy. And, believe it or not- just like love- you can’t buy them either.

This is our fundamental problem in Dayton (the big D- not just the city proper). Since our politicians are so focused on income (both the tax kind and the political donation kind)- they fail to understand that everything they do must be evaluated by what is right for the “Greater Good.”

Using “The Greene” as an example- how did the $15+ million in incentives that Greene County and Beavercreek forked over work out? Sure, they got a bump in jobs- that pay income tax, and there are more property taxes coming in thanks to the improvements, and last but not least- sales tax collections went up. Great, fantastic, amazing.

Until you realize that since the population hasn’t grown one iota in the area in the last 10 years, what we just did was subsidize one developer while leaving the last one (that would be the Mall at Fairfield Commons) with less. Now, we’re just talking about the big boys here. Let’s look at what this does to the small fry.

We’ve had many local independent restaurants close up shop. We’ve had higher vacancy rates in other retail locations. Kettering has had to stretch it’s police and fire to deal with problems that it didn’t have before, and Dayton has lost some more office tenants to the new buildings (Robbins & Meyers HQ for one).

This is an example of government redistributing wealth- instead of building it. We need more people in the region, we need more interest in the creation of jobs, not the moving of them. We need to find a competitive advantage and maximize it, or we’ll just continue rearranging deck chairs on a ship that’s not just sinking- it’s shrinking at the same time.

Sportsplex is a big idea. Cheap, bountiful water is a big advantage. Low cost of doing business is a draw. Walkable communities are a big plus as gas prices rise. Simplified business requirements makes things easier to start and run a business. Fair tax systems (and not the “Fair Tax” plan) help keep things moving (subsidizing the Cheesecake factory while ignoring Dominics etc.).

Somehow, we have to start evaluating every tax expenditure based on the idea of what will it do to make the area so attractive to business and people so that they won’t want tax breaks- but will be thinking they are getting a great deal?

Why would people want to live in LA and fight traffic, live in NYC and pay crazy rent for a closet to live in, when they could be in Dayton? Figure that out, focus on it, and before long- you won’t be handing out money with every building permit- and we’ll be getting real net growth, not redistributed wealth.