The city of Elk Grove is preparing to move ahead this spring on a long-held goal of creating a tournament-quality aquatic center and sports complex near the city's proposed Civic Center.
Three sports agencies submitted proposals to the city in February outlining how they would operate a sports park with perhaps four ball fields.
The agencies Sportsplex USA of San Diego, the Cosumnes Community Services District based in Elk Grove and Big League Dreams USA of Chino Hills all offer differing approaches and backgrounds.
Sportsplex USA describes itself as the best management team in the business, an 18-year-old company that enjoys sellout crowds and expertise in premier food services.
"We believe in the Elk Grove market as well as the greater Sacramento market," Bill Berghoff of Sportsplex said in an interview. "It is ripe for a tournament-quality facility like this to be successful."
The company operates two sports parks in Southern California one in Santee and one in Poway.
The Cosumnes Community Services District in Elk Grove provides recreation and park services. It has 81 parks with 91 sports fields, of which five to eight fields have lights for baseball and softball, said Recreation Supervisor Zach Jones.
The Wackford Community and Aquatic Complex on Bruceville Road and the 46- acre Hal Bartholomew Sports Park on Franklin High Road provide venues for baseball, softball, football, lacrosse, soccer and rugby.
Jones said the district works with the Elk Grove Youth Sports Association to host 20 youth tournaments yearly, regularly drawing teams from outside the city.
Rick Odekirk, founding partner and managing director of Big League Dreams, told the Elk Grove City Council he knows the allure of professional ball fields such as Wrigley Field in Chicago, Fenway Park in Boston and Yankee Stadium in New York.
The company builds detailed, scaled-down replicas of these stadiums and operates them fulfilling a dream that many players have to play ball in such venues.
Big League Dreams has 11 facilities in cities from California to Texas. Another six facilities are in the pipeline nationally, Odekirk said.
City Manager Laura Gill said she plans to recommend one of the sports park operators to the council on May 9.
She'll also outline the city's efforts to attract proposals to operate an aquatic park on about 5 acres next to the sports park.
The City Council's chosen operator would likely serve as a consultant to the park development contractor to be chosen later, Gill said.
For both sports and aquatic parks, city officials say they are seeking a manager who knows how to market the tournament prospects regionally and nationally.
"The city doesn't want to be just another park operator," she said. "The whole point of trying to build these facilities is to provide us with the opportunity to make Elk Grove more of a destination for sports, so we can land regional tournaments, state tournaments and national tournaments.
"Part of what we're trying to achieve here is to pull people into Elk Grove. We want something that promotes tourism and Elk Grove as a destination."
The land adjacent to the Civic Center covers about 50 acres.
But only about half that will be used for sports.
About 20 acres would be required for the ballparks and about five could be available for the aquatic center with at least one Olympic-size pool.
Another 10 of the 50 acres are home to wetlands that Gill said "really splits the site in a weird way."
That 25 available acres also would include parking, she said. "Part of the discussion will be, are we going to have enough room for both?"
Later phases of the Civic Center complex will call for a public-private partnership for construction of a library, children's museum and other public spaces and, ultimately, a hotel.