October 21, 2014

Elyria
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Bo Jackson’s group buys land to construct indoor training facility off I-90 in Avon

An artist's rendering of the Bo Jackson-backed domed sports training facility, which will be built in Avon. PHOTO PROVIDED

An artist’s rendering of the Bo Jackson-backed domed sports training facility, which will be built in Avon. PHOTO PROVIDED

AVON — Supporters of a Bo Jackson-backed, domed athletic facility hope it will be a bigger hit than the one Jackson put on Brian Bosworth.

City Council members on Tuesday sold a nine-acre property off Recreation Lane to Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports Development Group LLC, for $1, according to Mayor Jim Smith.

Jackson, the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn, planted Bosworth, then a Seattle Seahawks linebacker, on his back in a memorable Monday Night Football game in 1987. Jackson, a star running back for the Los Angeles Raiders for four seasons, was also a star outfielder who played eight seasons of major league baseball for three teams.

On its website, Elite said it runs one of the leading indoor training centers in the country, a reference to an 88,000-square foot, domed complex in Lockport, Ill., about 26 miles outside Chicago. Baseball, football, lacrosse and soccer are played at the dome, which includes athletic trainers.

Smith said by phone after the meeting that Elite will pay $6 million to build the approximately 105,000-square-foot facility, which they hope to open by September 2015. The city will spend up to $500,000 for sewer and water lines for the complex. Elite will be responsible for all upkeep of the complex.

Smith said it’s a good deal for the taxpayers because of 2,080 hours of free annual use for Avon Schools teams and Avon’s recreational department in perpetuity. Smith said the agreement works out to about $300,000 worth of usage annually.

“This is really what I consider a home run for Lorain County,” he said.

Smith said Elite approached city officials last spring or summer. Location was key.

The dome is to be off Interstate 90 by the Greater Cleveland YMCA French Creek Family Branch, 2010 Recreation Lane, and by All Pro Freight Stadium. Avon bought the land in the early 1980s from The Cleveland Electric Illuminating for $1.

Smith said the dome will be an asset for Avon youths who can only train outside for about four or five months due to cold and rainy weather. Smith said he’s confident the dome will be a money maker, not a white elephant.

“There are few facilities like it around the country and these are very in-demand facilities,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.