MANSFIELD — Cristen Gilbert, CEO of the YMCA of North Central Ohio, thinks it’s important for all children to get the opportunity to play sports.

Gilbert and the YMCA announced on Wednesday that a new $12 to $15 million, 125,000 square-foot indoor sports complex will be built near the intersection of I-71 and State Route 97 in Richland County.

Retired Mansfield industrialist James Gorman offered nearly 35 acres of land to build the complex, which will include indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, pickleball and track, as well as at least six outdoor soccer fields and a walking trail.

Gorman said he was excited to help the YMCA find space to build the new facility.

“We were just glad to see it come to the Bellville-Lexington area,” he said. “We’re trying to pay back the community what it’s given to us.”

The facility is expected to generate more than $8 million in revenue to Richland County from visitors and families traveling to play sports. It will also add more than 100 jobs to Richland County during the construction phase, and 60-100 jobs when the facility officially opens. 

“This project will bring in millions in revenue each year, creating a big boost to the local economy,” said William LaFayette, owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and strategy firm.

“A sports center of this size with indoor and outdoor activities will attract 35,000+ visitors and their dollars to the area every year and add 100 jobs,” LaFayette said in a Sept. 14 press release. “The ripple effects will benefit businesses and households throughout the county and increase tax revenues.” 

Significant Community Support

The Board of Directors of the YMCA of North Central Ohio approved the development of the major project after seeing the results of the proposed project’s feasibility study, including the Regionomics study.

Conducted over seven months, the feasibility study shows significant support for the sports center from area residents, including many families who travel to other sports centers in Lodi, Columbus, and out of state to participate in indoor soccer tournaments.

“There has been a tremendous need for a sports center like this in Richland County for a long time, and we want to make it a reality,” Gilbert said. “The hundreds of families in the area who take their children and their money miles away to participate on traveling soccer teams will now have a place nearby to enjoy this sport.”

Gilbert expects thousands of athletes and their families will visit from outside of Richland County, requiring food and overnight stays. The Y’s new sports center will host volleyball tournaments and other tournaments, sponsor various high-level sports teams, offer sports training, and more. 

Rick Roby, YMCA board president, said the facility will help expand access to team sports for families who aren’t able to travel to Lodi, Columbus or other states for tournaments.

“We’re looking to obviously serve our community first, and kind of an ancillary benefit from that is the economic benefit of bringing a lot of people to Richland County,” he said.

With Marshall Park providing artificial turf baseball and softball fields in Ontario, Roby said Richland County could become a hub for travel sports in Ohio.

“There’s a lot of talk about whether there’s competition or collaboration, and we look at it more as the more people we can draw into Richland County, we all win,” Roby said. “This is kind of a home run.” 

Roby also said the sports complex will be accessible by bike off the B&O Bike Trail.

Chriss Harris, YMCA board member and project funding director, said she hopes to break ground on the facility by the end of 2023. Adena Corporation has been selected as the construction leader for the multi-million-dollar sports center, with the YMCA hoping to open the facility in 2025. 

Gilbert said the sports complex becoming a travel destination can help draw in revenue for hotels, restaurants, stores and gas stations, as well as local attractions and entertainment.

LaFayette said the economic impacts only tell part of the story, adding the new facility will improve the health of residents and teamwork of participants and be a point of pride for the region.

“It will also allow thousands of visitors from a multi-state region to experience all the area has to offer,” he said.

Kevin Foglesong, local soccer coach and founder of Saving Grace Soccer Club in Lexington, referenced the Y’s feasibility study stating they expect thousands of players to come to the sports complex for up to 12 soccer tournaments. 

He said all age groups and skill levels will have a chance to use the soccer fields, from preschools to Richland County Special Olympics to college students.

Having a sports complex usable year-round can attract coaches to the area and help players hone their skills, Foglesong said.

“Three years ago, I bought the only lottery ticket in my life and it was when the Powerball was at a billion dollars,” Fogelsong said. “My co-workers were asking what I would do, and literally, this is what I said I would do — build a community soccer program. It’s awesome to have that dream and see it come to life.”

Construction Planning and Funding Efforts Underway

Donations for the Y sports center will be sought from both public and private sources, and sponsors, advertisers, and those interested in branding will be obtained to support the project’s construction, a permanent maintenance fund, and short- and long-term operational expenses. Indoor space for sports-related businesses also may be available for lease.

For more information on the YMCA’s Sports Center or to provide financial support, contact YMCA Marketing-Development Director Sara Baker at

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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