PAOLA — Baseball and softball players looking to hone their hitting and pitching skills soon may have a new option to do so in Paola.
Paola City Council members, during their Nov. 10 meeting, approved a rezoning request and land development agreement for an indoor sports complex to be built on Tract 3 in the Paola Industrial Park. The tract is next to the Briley building, and it’s the same lot that currently houses the Paola Community Garden.
The entire 5-acre lot previously was zoned Business Park but needed to be rezoned to Thoroughfare Access to allow for the sports facility to be constructed. The lot was chosen because it is adjacent to the Briley building lot to the west, which previously was rezoned from Business Park to Thoroughfare Access in 2008.
Randi Shannon, assistant city manager, said choosing a different lot would have created spot zoning, which the city tries to avoid. She also said the plan is to split the lot, with 3 acres designated for the development and 2 acres for the existing community garden.
Matthew Wickersham of Wickersham Development is spearheading the project, and he told council members that the name of the development will be Wick’s Sports, LLC.
Wickersham said the current plan is for the 8,000-square-foot indoor complex to feature four cages, also known as tunnels, with two for batting and two for pitching. Current plans also would allow for the cages to be moved to open up a large turf area, where athletes could practice infield drills.
Staff is expected to include Wickersham and his wife, as well as up to three part-time employees.
“I’ve got a big vision,” Wickersham said.
The location on Industrial Park Drive is perfect, Wickersham said, because it is close to the new school fields by the water tower and Cottonwood Elementary, which bring in teams from all over for tournaments. While those players are waiting to compete, Wickersham hopes they will stop by his facility to rent a cage and practice hitting or pitching.
Wickersham was able to purchase the land from the city for $1, per the city’s policy encouraging development in the industrial park, but the developer is responsible for other fees, such as preparation of a legal survey, preparation and recording of the deeds, and installation of curb and gutters on the property along Industrial Park Drive.
The Land Development Agreement states that the developer will have 24 months from the date of closing to construct a commercial building. Also, if the developer sells the land before a building is constructed, or within 24 months of closing, the developer will have to split any profits equally with the city.
Wickersham told council members he is unsure of when construction might start on the facility.
“There’s a lot to do,” he said.