These renderings show the vision for Dream Parks, a 248-acre sports complex proposed for Bartow County on the banks of Lake Allatoona in Emerson.
By Rachel Tobin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It's a classic “If they build it, will they come?” project: An Atlanta developer is planning a field of dreams that will be a smorgasbord for young athletes.
Watkins Retail Group, which has built more than 50 Publix-anchored retail centers, filed a development of regional impact form Tuesday with Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs that details a roughly 250-acre sports complex in Bartow County. Called Dream Parks at LakePoint, it would be located on about 1,400 acres of land on I-75 near Lake Allatoona in Emerson.
The facility has attracted big name investors, including Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez, the former and current managers of the Atlanta Braves, and Ned Yost, manager of the Kansas City Royals.
“The Dream Parks concept is something Yost had been developing for more than 15 years,” Neal Freeman, Watkins president, said in an e-mail, adding that’s how Cox got involved.
Plans ultimately call for a retail center, 16 baseball fields, 12 soccer-lacrosse fields, half a million square feet of office space and hotels with 4,000 rooms.
Watkins said Iowa-based Perfect Game, which stages baseball tournaments for recruiters, will move its headquarters to the facility, where it will hold the games. The firm packs east Cobb hotels when it holds games there for about five weeks at a time, Freeman said.
North Atlanta Soccer Association and LB3 Lacrosse also have committed to the facility.
It's being likened to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, where Disney Sports stages more than 200 events a year.
Freeman said he's already raised about half of the $160 million needed for Phase One from private investors, and he's working on raising the rest of the money.
The project moved to Bartow after Cobb County decided not to issue bonds to pay for it earlier this year. It’s not clear if Bartow will bring money to the deal.
Phase One will include the sports complex, 60 rental cabins with zip lines and rope courses, a Miracle League baseball field for handicapped participants and a 2,000-seat amphitheater.
The whole project could total $1 billion, Freeman said, but some of it will get built only if market conditions are right.
Ken Ashley, a senior director at real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, said he believes a facility like this could work in metro Atlanta, citing ice skating rink the Cooler in Alpharetta as a precedent.
"If they have the money, and they certainly have the star power with Bobby Cox, the only thing they are missing is a corn field.”