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Wed November 26, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Promoted as the largest and most comprehensive sports vacation destination in the world, the $1 billion LakePoint Sporting Community Town Center is coming to life. Requiring one of the largest dirt movements in the history of Georgia, LakePoint’s 1,400 acres will feature venues for more than three dozen sports and five million square feet of mixed-use development.
“Travel sports tourism is one of the largest growing segments in the tourism industry today,” said Judy Sparks, director of marketing of LakePoint and Owner/CEO of Smartegies LLC. “Families are planning their vacations around their children’s sports tournaments. College recruiters and professional scouts have followed this trend and attend these tournaments and showcases to discover the best athletes in the country. There’s a tremendous need for both state-of-the-art facilities and entertainment options that cater to youth athletes and their families, as well as the scouts who travel to watch these young players compete.”
The project will be completed in phases over the next two to three years. Funded by private investors that include Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and former Braves manager Bobby Cox, LakePoint focuses on families who increasingly find themselves on the road.
“The majority of the founding partners have experienced this travel sports lifestyle with their children,” said Sparks. “Our partners bring diverse experience in real estate development, design and construction, sports management and marketing.”
The project broke ground in November 2012, with construction on the remainder of the south campus ongoing. Once the south campus is complete, it will include eight major league size baseball fields, three multi-purpose soccer and lacrosse fields, a sand volleyball beach pavilion, one of the largest cable wakeboard parks in the world, a more than 350,000 sq. ft. (32,516 sq m) indoor facility, several hotels, restaurants and entertainment options.
“So far, we have four baseball fields with a 360-degree view scouting tower, 10 sand volleyball courts with a pavilion, a 20-acre cable wake park featuring three lakes, and three multi-purpose fields for soccer and lacrosse,” said Bradley.
With such an ambitious plan, organizers are working carefully to keep from being consumed by the Emerson, Ga., project, which is located in Bartow County in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains and adjacent to Lake Allatoona.
“Overall, we will be moving more than 12 million cubic yards of dirt, which is no small task,” Sparks said. “ It will require our program manager, design and construction teams, which include ClearStrategy, Brasfield & Gorrie and Wakefield Beasley & Associates, to carefully plan and coordinate bringing the rest of the project online in time to meet our overwhelming demand, while on-going operations continue uninterrupted.
“Our property spans more than three miles of frontage along Interstate 75, with two full interchanges at exits 283 and 285. Our western border runs along Hwy. 41, so the access to our site is ideal for the six million visitors we anticipate at full build-out. The majority of our participants travel from the Northwestern and Midwestern states, and LakePoint is only half the distance to Florida, where many of these tournaments have historically taken place. In addition, the property is less than an hour from the Atlanta airport.”
This summer, LakePoint hosted more than 1,300 baseball games in the first 60 days on the four baseball fields alone. Participants used more than 50,000 hotel room nights during their stay. It’s estimated LakePoint will host roughly one million visitors this year.
The design calls for a nine-lane track with a natural grass infield, 28 hotels, 100 restaurants, 16 major-league sized ballfields, 12 youth baseball fields / fast-pitch softball fields, 14 multi-purpose, soccer and lacrosse fields, an indoor facility, a 13-screen movie theater, a zip lines and ropes course, a bowling ally, a Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy nine-hole lighted executive golf course and a shopping and entertainment village.
“We are currently backfilling a new, 210-foot concrete culvert and constructing a pre-engineered metal storage building, said Chip Williams, Brasfield & Gorrie senior project manager. “This storage building will be used to support LakePoint’s operations once final construction on the south campus is completed.
“We have completed construction of four major-league-sized baseball fields, three soccer/lacrosse fields, associated concessions and support buildings, sidewalks and parking areas. We placed 217,000 square feet of hardscape and 750,000 square feet of artificial turf. We have also constructed more than 1.5 miles of new roads.”
Approximately 120 people were on the job site at the peak of construction. The time frame proved the biggest challenge, as the original construction schedule was compressed by 40 percent.
“We also experienced unusually severe winter weather and a wet spring, which presented delays and created poor soil conditions,” Williams said. “Despite these challenges, we managed to complete the first phase of this project on time.”
The property was wooded, prior to the start of grading. A portion of the site had been mined and contained high-quality fine ore powders.
“At the start of the project, we cleared the entire area,” said Williams. “Mass grading and clearing were done in phases, and took approximately four months. We moved 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt on this project. To put it in perspective, that’s more than 3.4 billion pounds of dirt.”
Equipment being used includes a John Deere 750, 140 motorgrader, John Deere 848 skidder, Cat 834 wheel dozer, Cat D series dozers, a Cat 834 wheel dozer, articulating end dumptrucks, rigid frame end dumptrucks, 336 excavator, 345 excavator, PC400 excavator, PC 600 excavator, 963 rubber tire loader, 815 compactor and a water truck. The heavy machinery has been needed for a variety of tasks, including clearing, mass grading, fine grading and utility installation.
“The most time-consuming aspect of this project has been fine grading for fields and parking lots in adverse weather conditions,” Williams said. “Poor soil conditions created by the weather we experienced presented an initial setback. The existing micaceous silt on this site has an extremely narrow band for optimal moisture content, which made it difficult to deal with during the wet spring. So far, we have had 28 weather days, including two crippling snow storms, during construction.”
Javier Santos, AIA LEED AP, associate of Wakefield Beasley & Associates Inc., said the overall vision for the project was to create the premier family destination for the families involved in travel sports.
“There are other travel sports venues out there, but nothing to the level that LakePoint brings. The scope of what it’s doing is unheard of. The typical tournament facilities out there may be great for the kid athletes, but may not fulfill the needs of the entire family. Not only does this have all the parks and fields as you would expect for competition sports, but we are also planning multiple recreational areas, hotels, shopping, all types of retail, medical facilities and restaurants concentrated in a family-friendly setting. The goal is for the entire family to stay and have a good time between games.”
Design planning is still going on, with architects taking things one step at a time.
“There are a lot of moving parts and it can be challenging, but you take it piece by piece, and split the work among the team,” said Santos. “Before you know it, you’re getting things moving. It helps that the leadership is fully committed to the vision. Any project such as this one, with so many folks involved, requires breaking down the whole into its parts. As far as individual buildings, some of them have been designed so that they can be added on in a future phase to allow for changing needs. The maintenance building currently under construction will likely double in size within five years, so we have to be thinking ahead.
“The team has been working on this project for three years now. If there’s anything consistent in this process, it’s change. The pieces move around as the project evolves, even now that construction is already going on. We just went through a process of lessons learned from the first phase that just opened, and are working hard to make the necessary adjustments so that future phases are better and better. The scope of this project is large enough and the response to the facilities has been so positive, I predict the building team will be busy for at least the next decade.”
For designers, size wasn’t the only challenge.
“This is a groundbreaking facility, and sometimes LakePoint leadership has gotten into the position of having to invent the wheel,” Santos said. “One of the coolest things is that the scale of the project was almost like creating an entire city from scratch. As the vision for Lakepoint developed, we also took into consideration what this new ’town’ we were creating should look like.
“We produced comprehensive guidelines for the entire facility, and divided the project into seven districts, each with its own architectural character or story. For example, the portion that’s currently built is planned as a ’modern rustic’ area, so that’s why you see a lot of wood combined with steel and glass. Future phases will be more or less historical stylistically, but the goal is that even in their variety, they can be cohesive enough to complement each other.”
Being ecologically responsible also was important to the team. While the project is not certified per LEED guidelines, steps have been taken to apply sustainability principles, whenever practical.
“We know these facilities will be around for a long time, and have designed them so they use natural resources responsibly,” Santos said. “As the designs morph, we look more and more about how to be more energy efficient, and how to utilize as many renewable materials as we can. We are relying on natural materials such as wood and stone and are mixing them with high-tech systems such as solar roof tiles, which might even produce more energy than what the buildings consume. Beyond the designs, LakePoint is implementing sustainable principles in their operations, such as heavy use of recycling.”
Energy conservation was a chief consideration during the planning stages. LakePoint will be one of the first facilities in the world to be lit almost entirely by state-of-the-art LED lighting, which uses 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. In addition, the LakePoint campus tram system will run on natural gas.
LakePoint will be the largest installation of synthetic turf in the world. According to the Synthetic Turf Council, a typical grass sports field requires between 500,000 and a million gallons of water each year. With 44 fields surfaced in synthetic turf, LakePoint stands to save the area between 22 to 44 million gallons of water each year. Synthetic turf also helps reduce noxious emissions and reduces grass clippings, which the EPA states are the third largest component of municipal solid waste in landfills. The use of synthetic turf also will prevent down time from bad weather, as it can withstand up to 3,000 hours of play per year, as opposed to 1,000 hours per year for grass fields.
As for the economic impact, LakePoint will initially produce approximately 2,400 jobs. The entire development at full build-out is projected to create 26,000 jobs, making the new development one of the largest employers in the northwest Georgia region.