MATTOON, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) – A new sports complex that has been in the making for years is set to open in Illinois next year.
The Emerald Sports Connection has been in the works since 2019.
The idea has recently become a reality, with the 70 million-dollar project breaking ground in May.
“We stumbled across a gentleman who was doing a similar project in the southeast and described how it was a motivator for national tenants, for restaurants, for retailers and things like that to move in,” Blake Pierce, President of Emerald Acres Sports Connection, said.
The outdoor/indoor sports complex will be on the west side of the I-57 and the Charleston Avenue interchange.
It’s projected to bring in 580,000 visitors, $23.8 million in direct spending and 59,000 booked hotel rooms annually.
“The indoor facility will have basketball courts that can also become 16 volleyball courts. It will have a court overlay to be able to do collegiate level for regional games with seating for up to 3,000 people,” Pierce said.
There will also be a family entertainment center, a cafeteria, eight outdoor baseball/softball fields and eight outdoor soccer fields, which will also benefit local colleges.
“Number one, it gives our teams the opportunity to recruit young athletes in the fields we already have athletic programs in such as volleyball, softball, baseball, men’s and women’s baseball. But more importantly, it also gives us venues to play,” Josh Bullock, President of Lake Land College, said.
Lake Land College is only a few miles down the road from the future sports complex.
Bullock said the school’s Athletic Director is on the board that is helping drive the complex, so the college has been in the loop since its beginning stages.
“We’ve always hoped something of this magnitude would come to the community and when the discussions started three or four years ago, it really was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments of oh my gosh, this could be a game changer for our community,” Bullock said.
“The Shops at the Emerald Acres Sports Connection” construction is also underway.
It is adjacent to the sports complex, and Rural King is behind the project.
It will bring in new retail stores, restaurants and hotel space to help add additional amenities to the community, and also provide more resources for those coming to visit the complex.
The indoor portion of the complex is expected to open in the fall of 2024, with the outdoor portion opening in the spring of 2025.
You can read more about the Emerald Acres Sports Connection by clicking here.