by Caleb Turrentine, abc3340.com
The City of Cullman revealed plans for a new 130,000 square-foot sports and events facility located in the middle of the Sports and Events District, near Cullman’s newest attraction, WildWater, just off Main Avenue.
“This facility will serve a massive need for the local community,” said Nathan Anderson, Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism Executive Director. “It will draw hundreds of thousands to Cullman, and will have a tremendous impact on our community.”
Anderson began the morning introducing city and county leadership in attendance as well as recognizing the architecture firm responsible for designing the center, CCR Architecture and Interiors. He thanked those involved in the project including the Cullman City Council and Mayor, citing its expected benefits for the city. Other city leadership in attendance also expressed their appreciation and enthusiasm for what the new facility will bring.
“People will stay in our hotel rooms, they’ll eat at our restaurants, and they’ll shop at the great businesses that we have in Cullman,” said Mayor Woody Jacobs. “We’re excited about it. We think it’s a positive thing for our community and for our state, and we’re going to work with everyone we can to ensure it’s successful.”
Once the new Sports and Events Center is complete, the district will have a total of 10 tournament basketball courts, 19 volleyball courts, 9 baseball/softball fields, 5 soccer fields, a large events center, a wellness center, an indoor aquatic center and a regional water park.
“This new Sports and Events facility will have an incredible economic impact on our community,” said Jacobs. “It will be great for creating jobs, helping the local economy and meeting the needs of the growing population of youth in our community.”
Clint Hollingsworth, City of Cullman Council member Place 4 and Chairman of the City’s Tourism Committee, added that the new sports and events facility would be more than just a sports complex — it would be a means for economic development as well. “Nationally, there are very few places like this,” said Hollingsworth. “The opening of this facility will solidify Cullman as one of the top 20 places for youth sports destinations in the country. For many visitors, it will be not only their introduction to Cullman, but also their introduction to Alabama.”
Tabatha Smothers, General Manager of Hampton Inn and Cullman Tourism Bureau Board Member, discussed how the expanded Sports District will positively impact the hotels in a big way.
“According to the Sports Events & Tourism Association, sports tourism has an $8.4 billion direct economic impact on hotels,” Smothers said. “We appreciate that the City of Cullman continues to do what is necessary to ensure that Cullman remains a big player in youth sports tourism. We could not be more excited about this project!”
“It is exciting to see Cullman building indoor recreational space for athletes to practice in and compete,” Cullman High School basketball coach Stu Stuedeman said. “This sports & events center will introduce our local athletes to top competition from around the country, all without having to leave Cullman.”
The new project will include 8 basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts and enough space for 6,500 attendees in a concert or conference setting. The gym is designed to host large concerts, expositions, conventions, trade shows, sporting events and charity fundraisers.
“The City of Cullman is growing, with the latest census showing 25% of our population under the age of 18,” Anderson said, “This facility will be a great addition to the overall plans we have for the families and youth within our community.”
The design consists of a large open space for various recreational events and programs, a catering kitchen, up to 8 breakout meeting rooms and parking.
“The size of the facility and the visitors it will bring to Cullman will also have an enormous impact on local businesses,” said Randy Earnest, Owner of Chick-Fil-A Cullman. “We know this will help secure our place as a go-to for tournaments and this will benefit local athletes and families.”