The Northport City Council heard the results of a feasibility study Monday, affirming that a sports complex and aquatic park in the city is a very possible endeavor.

The study, conducted by Victus Advisors, prioritized that in order for these facilities to work in Northport, the city would need enough water, a significant public interest, and adequate space to support such a project.

Brian Connolly, Victus founder and managing principal, explained that his team looked at the primary market in and around Northport to see how well a sports complex and aquatic park would be utilized.

Here are their conclusions:

THE VISION: ATHLETICS COMPLEX

Victus found that there are about 26 million people who live within a five-hour drive of Northport, making that population group the prime candidates for actually venturing to Northport to use the proposed facilities.

Pairing this with existing venues in this radius and what athletics demands exist among the geographic region, Connolly's team found that there is sufficient interest to support a sports complex and aquatic park in Northport.

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"We specifically asked these groups if they have a level of interest in participating in events here, hosting events here, what does that look like," he said. "This is obviously just a sample of some of the groups we talked about, but we identified quite a bit of interest from both groups, which kind of gives you a baseline to start with when projecting demand."

Connolly proposed that an eight-field baseball and softball complex, which would be used for weekday public use, practices and games, plus serve as a host for tournaments on the weekends. He projected that the proposed outdoor facilities could see 320,000 annual visits through weekly local use and 25 total weekend tournaments that could drive economic impact each year.

He also saw a demand for about six indoor courts, which could be used for basketball, volleyball and wrestling. The same model would apply: local use would be the overwhelming majority for the facilities, attracting about 170,000 annual visits between local and out-of-town families.

THE VISION: WATER PARK

George Deines, a studio director for Counsilman-Hunsaker, spoke on behalf of Victus in regards to how developing a 5.5- to 8-acre water park could benefit the city.

No aquatic facilities within a one-hour driving distance are considered major regional attractions except for Alabama Adventure, located just up I-20/59 in Bessemer. Given this opportunity to fill a community need in West Alabama, Victus found that the demand is certainly present for an aquatic attraction. Northport proved to be a fine city to fill such a need.

Deines envisioned that amenities like a 7,500 square-foot leisure pool, kids structures and toddler pools, climbing walls, a 3,500 square-foot lazy river, and several water slides would make for a lucrative, successful operation in the city. With these features, Deines said the water park could see significant local and regional traffic in a typical 100-day summer season.

"As we look at that 500-person capacity, we can see well over 50,000 annual visits on admissions, plus another 1,700 on swim lesson visits," Deines said. "So you're pushing, 55,000 to 56,000 total visits ... from Memorial Day to Labor Day."

Also, this project would be set to use about 417,000 gallons of water each year.

A YEAR IN THE MAKING

A Northport water park has been a dream for city council president Jeff Hogg for more than a year. Hogg pitched the idea to the council back in March of 2020, passionately proposing that the $7 million investment would serve its city well. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic rearing its head in Alabama just a week or so later, any further discussion was put on hold.

But, now that things are getting back to normal in West Alabama, Hogg is back on the crusade to get a water park in his city.

The council authorized a virtual public input meeting to gauge interest and allow room for concerns to be voiced back in January. Hogg took to social media to solicit support for the park during the May 17 city council meeting, asking his constituents to show up for the idea.

Mike Dunn, Joel Bobo and other community members addressed the council in support of the sports complex and aquatic center, saying that it could be a great opportunity for travel and tourism, new restaurants and coffee shops, economic development, and local recreation to spike in the city. With as much development potential as a sports complex and aquatic center could have, there were little to no complaints about bringing such a high-profile project to the community.

"I consider Northport to be a small town, but small towns can do big things," one community member reminded the council.

WHAT'S NEXT?

No actionable decision will be made until the council meets and discusses the results of Victus' findings and testimonials from community members. The Tuscaloosa Thread will provide more updates to this story as they become available.

Any community members who wish to make their comments or concerns heard, but could not make the council meeting Monday, are encouraged to reach out to Mayor Bobby Herndon at bherndon@cityofnorthport.org.

Northport City Council meetings take place every other Monday at Northport City Hall. To watch the entire meeting from May 17, check out the video here:

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