LakePoint addresses questions on complex
by Jessica Loeding
Jan 26, 2011 | 7953 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Judy Sparks (back to camera), was one of the LakePoint Sports partners answering questions from those attending Tuesday night’s standing-room-only Emerson town hall meeting. According to the partners, the development is scheduled to break ground late spring.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Judy Sparks (back to camera), was one of the LakePoint Sports partners answering questions from those attending Tuesday night’s standing-room-only Emerson town hall meeting. According to the partners, the development is scheduled to break ground late spring. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Is financing finalized? When will the project begin? Where do we apply? And, where is the tennis and softball?

These were just a few of the questions raised during Tuesday night's town hall meeting in Emerson concerning the Dream Parks at LakePoint project.

Following an introduction by Emerson Mayor Al Pallone, representatives of LakePoint Sports presented renderings of the development's layout along with a video featuring partners Bobby Cox, current Atlanta Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez and Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost.

Anchored by Perfect Game USA, the North Atlanta Soccer Association and LB3 Lacrosse, the development will sit on almost 1,400 acres along Interstate 75. Featuring three miles of frontage along I-75, the main entrance will be along Red Top Mountain Road, with the Red Top Mountain and Emerson-Allatoona interchanges included.

Roughly $27 million in upgrades to the Red Top Mountain Road interchange factored into the decision to locate in Emerson, according to LakePoint partner David Branch, who added that having transportation infrastructure in place was key for developers.

In addition to easy access, Emerson's close proximity to Atlanta, the North Georgia mountains and Lake Allatoona added to the appeal.

Branch said the economic downturn led partners to reconsider how to approach a project like LakePoint.

"The commercial real estate industry, starting in late 2009, ... has been almost on a death spiral," he said. "We looked at the concept of large regional mixed-use development sites and how could we reinvent them, how could we recharge them and create new life."

Branch, along with Watkins Associated Developers Inc. Chief Operating Officer Lee Freeman and LakePoint partner Judy Sparks, opened the floor for questions following the 45-minute presentation.

To begin the Q&A portion, a resident asked about the possible inclusion of softball.

Branch said when the LakePoint announcement was made in mid-December, the development group began receiving expressions of interest from various sports and businesses, including a well-known softball club in the state.

"The Atlanta Vipers ... has approached us," he said. "We are looking at facilities on our south campus" for a possible softball location.

Financing questions quickly followed.

"We're excited that our major corporate partner is Shaw Industries. Shaw Industries has committed to provide about $40 million worth of financing. Part of that will be in the financing of all the synthetic fields, which is a significant investment," Branch said.

Shaw's Sportexe division will produce synthetic turf for the 16 Major League Baseball-sized fields and 12 soccer and lacrosse fields at the heart of the project.

LakePoint's Neal Freeman said in December the 28 fields will become a "living lab" for Shaw and will be the largest synthetic turf sports complex in the world. Sportexe, whose headquarters will move to the facility, will use the development as an international showroom.

A follow-up question concerned Shaw being owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

"I will tell you that this project ... has made it's own way to Omaha," Branch said. Berkshire Hathaway is based in the Nebraska town.

Financing questions were sprinkled throughout the night's session. Representatives said most investors are private, thereby binding officials to confidentiality agreements.

With the memory of a proposed ski resort and Cabela's fresh in residents' minds, one resident asked if LakePoint was going to happen.

While the development is a "process," Branch said the senior developer has never announced a project that did not happen.

The ski resort came up once more, when Lee Freeman, whose corporation plans a mixed-use development inside the park, said reps with the ski facility have contacted LakePoint Sports. Nothing is included in site plans for a skiing facility.

Because of the impact to the region, LakePoint filed Development of Regional Impact paperwork last month. Established by the Georgia Planning Act of 1989, DRIs are "large-scale developments that are likely to have regional effects beyond the local government jurisdiction in which they are located," according to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. "These procedures are designed to improve communication between affected governments and to provide a means of revealing and assessing potential impacts of large-scale developments before conflicts relating to them arise. At the same time, local government autonomy is preserved since the host government maintains the authority to make the final decision on whether a proposed development will or will not go forward."

Officials said Tuesday they hope to have the results of the DRI in the coming weeks. Groundbreaking is estimated in late spring, with the first pitch tossed out in October 2012. Initially, the estimate for a first pitch was June 2012.

Also high on the list of questions: Jobs.

Sparks said she receives about 100 a day from applicants and contractors interested in employment.

She said resumes are filed by category of interest, with locals given top-billing. "If you are a local citizen, your resume goes to the top of the file."

Once the DRI ends, zonings are complete and the land closed on, Sparks said representatives will host a job and vendor fair.

Interested contractors and applicants are asked to visit to apply.

With an expected build-out of five to 10 years, officials said what will be included in the final development remains to be seen. Those expressing interest in location to Dream Parks at LakePoint include medical and educational facilities, retailers, supermarkets, hotel chains and other sports facilities.

Branch stressed that with the potential impact, developers will strive to be "good stewards of the land" and a "good neighbor to Cartersville."

Other questions of the night concerned topics such as revenue estimates, water and sewer capabilities, proposed retailers and parking.

As for the line of questioning, a resident asked which questions representatives were dreading that had not been asked.

"I'm not dreading any of them," Branch said. "I know if I were already a resident here, I would have questions. ... The questions that have been asked are very much in line with what I would have anticipated."