Connecting the Central Oregon Community through Sports A Legacy-Building Sports Complex


(Renderings courtesy of Central Oregon Sportsplex Alliance)

Central Oregon is poised to enhance its sports and recreation landscape with a proposed sports complex, a vision discussed at a recent stakeholders meeting. The initiative, led by the Central Oregon Sportsplex Alliance, is about building facilities and creating a legacy of community unity, equity and access.

Derek Berry, president and CEO of the Central Oregon Sportsplex Alliance, a nonprofit run by volunteers, advocates for the project’s potential to unite and serve the community’s growing needs. “We’re building this for the future, a legacy for the community where healthy kids equal healthy adults,” Berry states. This initiative reflects the community’s strong support for expanding facilities that cater to a broad spectrum of activities, including youth sports, adaptive sports and adult programs.

Additionally, the project emphasizes the importance of physical and mental well-being. Research shows that children participating in sports are 15% more likely to attend college, significantly less likely to be obese and have higher self-esteem. These benefits emphasize the critical role sports play in youth development and the need for accessible sports facilities to support the community’s growing needs.

The project’s collaborative spirit is evident, with local sports parents, city chambers and tourism bureaus across the tri-county area rallying behind the complex to address the pressing need for more sports facilities.

This shortage of facilities resonates with local figures such as Maarty Leunen, a former professional basketball player and current high school coach, and Jessica Mendoza, a Team USA Olympian and MLB announcer. Both highlight the significance of a local facility that fosters a sense of community and is accessible to all children, regardless of their financial situation. “The most important part about it is bringing us all together. Having the kids, the parents, everyone around. It’s about seeing the kids who can’t afford it getting involved and how important the benefits are.” Mendoza explains.

A pivotal aspect of the initiative is the location of the sports complex, with the Deschutes County Expo Center (Expo Center) in Redmond emerging as a leading candidate. The Expo Center is especially appealing due to its existing infrastructure and the prospect of acquiring an additional 140-150 acres of state land. Additionally, Oregon’s strict land use laws make the Expo Center a practical choice, potentially reducing the project’s timeline from over 20 years to just ten, ensuring a more timely realization of this vision.

The complex is envisioned to cater to the diverse needs of Central Oregon’s communities, featuring multi-use fields, sports courts, areas for pickleball, soccer, baseball, softball, ice rinks and more. These facilities, including indoor and adaptive facilities, are planned based on community input to ensure they meet the varied interests and needs of the region.

In partnership with the project, Sports Facilities Companies, represented by Joe Fackel, will provide expertise in development and planning. Fackel highlights the extensive benefits of such facilities: “Our mission is to improve the health and economic vitality of communities through sports, recreation, wellness, event and entertainment facilities. We see positive impacts in the communities we serve. These facilities can make generational changes.”

Central Oregon’s reliance on tourism is well-acknowledged, yet the primary focus of this complex is to serve the local community, including Bend, Madras, Prineville, Redmond and neighboring towns. The complex will be a vital resource for local youth and community members, particularly on weekdays, offering an accessible venue and reducing travel time for practice and games. On weekends, it is expected to see increased traffic from visitors attending tournaments and events.

The project is exploring partnerships with CET and Bend Parks and Recreation to ensure all kids can access the complex. This effort primarily focuses on those facing financial or logistical challenges, addressing transportation and accessibility.

Regarding funding, the project is considering various options, including private and public ventures, sponsorships, levies and bonds. The Central Oregon Sportsplex Alliance is committed to ensuring that sports participation remains affordable for all.

The project is currently in its development stages, focusing on fundraising for a feasibility study. This data-driven approach will assess the current and projected needs of the tri-county area. The goal is to make informed decisions based on community feedback, economic impact studies and strategic planning.

In summary, the vision for the new sports complex reflects the community’s collective desire to stand together, address the needs of our growing community and create a legacy by constructing facilities that enhance spaces for kids, adaptive sports and adult programs.


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