Sports Force & Cedar Point Sports Center
A Development "Every Planner Should See"

A community's progress is a series of natural, purposeful and spontaneous changes.  The development at the former Griffing Sandusky Airport property encapsulates this sentiment.   The Griffing's departure to the Erie-Ottawa International Airport in 2012 brought new life to the flying service and to a regional transportation asset, but it was a bittersweet change for residents of Erie County as the property then sat idle.

As of Spring 2017, the 57 acres is anything but idle.  It has been activated with a multi-million dollar investment, dynamic waterfront and lively teams and families visiting our area.  This vision was created when Cedar Fair partnered with Erie County and local officials to execute a project that would spur economic development for Sandusky and the  surrounding counties while preserving a valuable natural resource for Sandusky residents and visitors to enjoy.  Sports Force Parks was the first step in a transformative community investment that will eventually include an indoor sports complex and outdoor walking trails. 

The leadership role was nothing new for Cedar Fair.  Since 2011, Cedar Fair has invested more than $200 million in capital expenditures at Cedar Point, helping generate local jobs, support tourism and significant tax revenue for the City of Sandusky.  And this latest project has been just as catalytic.  Since opening this year, the outdoor tournament complex Sports Force Parks has:
  • Served over 1,200 teams, 150,000 visitors, exceeding expectations from the project's feasibility analysis.
  • Expanded the length and reach of Erie County's tourism season with 50% of these teams traveling from out-of-state.
  • Become the foundation of new branded Sports Marketing program by Lake Erie Shores and Islands: "AMERICA'S SPORTS & FAMILY FUN CAPITAL" ™
  • Received several awards and acknowledgements:
    • Named "#1 Ballpark With Accessible Fields Every Planner Should See" from SportsEvents Magazine
    • Named a 2017 Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism by Sports Destination Management Won a Reader's Choice Award from Sports Destination Management
    • "Above and Beyond" Award from Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities
    • Certificate of Recognition from Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities
    • Recognition "for development of a considerable tourism and economic impact project" from the State of Ohio General Assembly
  • Partnered with community organizations from Sandusky, Perkins Township and others to host charities, leagues and a day of "Backyard Ball," with free fun, activities and pick-up games for local kids.
Rest doesn't come easy to a company who crafts the world's greatest thrills, and no such pause has come after the launch of Sports Force Park this year.  In fact, construction is set to begin in 2018 for an additional project - the Cedar Points Sports Center, an indoor amateur sports facility completed in partnership with Erie County and local officials.

The vision is a best-in-class facility in both quality and size, with a $28M 140,000 sq.ft. proposed.  The facility will feature 10 basketball courts or 20 volleyball courts and host tournaments of many kinds including mat sports and community events. 

Unique components of the site will also include a privately funded Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center from Firelands Regional Medical Center and a shovel-ready site for a community fitness center and natatorium which will also be privately funded.

Rounding out the project's collaboration and first-class facilities, will be 'Landing Park,' a 27-acre section off Cleveland Road.  The new waterfront public park will include walking & biking trails, birding observation platforms, canoe/kayak launch and sitting and observation areas with  unparalleled views  for the use and enjoyment of Erie County residents.

A project of this magnitude will be transformative to Erie County.  There is much to look forward to, so we'll pick just a few of our favorites:
  • At maturity the project is expected to inject $20M of annual economic impact to Erie County with an additional 70,000 visitors.  A significant portion of this impact is expected at non-peak season bringing incremental revenue to area hotels, retail, food and beverage and more.  The benefits will cross all industries and business types.
  • Cedar Point's involvement has led to the contribution of 25+ acres of land, $5M of capital and an agreement to carry the responsibility of construction, operation and ongoing maintenance of the facility on behalf of Erie County.  Possibly more advantageous, the project will allow for leveraging Cedar Point's powerful brand as a strong driver of the projected economic impact.
  • The project solidifies Erie County's position as a major youth sports center and AMERICA'S SPORTS & FAMILY FUN CAPITAL ™.
  • Real estate taxes, construction jobs and an extended tourism season are expected to lead to year-round improvement in the local labor market and enhanced public infrastructure and services.



The new indoor facility combined with the existing first class outdoor facility; the private development of an onsite orthopedics and sports medicine center; and the future development of a waterfront public park will make this a one of a kind collection of first class facilities that will drive year-round tourism.  It's a lot of impact for just one year's development highlights.

Abbey Bemis, Executive Director
Tourism and tourism marketing have a significant impact on our economy by driving visitation, but a recent study of tourism campaigns from nine states demonstrates its long-term potential as a broader economic development driver.  The study confirmed how a visitor promotion campaign creates a  "halo effect", boosting not only visitorship but lifting perception of that location as a place to live, start a career, invest or retire.  When combined with a visit these perceptions are made even more powerful.
The 12 Days of Development email series recognizes and celebrates another year of progress in Erie County, Ohio.  Each day this week and next you will receive an email spotlight on a company investing, improving and innovating in our community. We can't capture it all, so let us know a neighbor we missed or what activities you've got planned to make the 2018 list!