I grew up just blocks from Cooper Stadium. As a student at Bishop Ready High School, which did not have a sports field, I had the opportunity to play football and baseball at Cooper Stadium. I attended countless Clippers games with my parents, 11 siblings and friends over the years. "The Coop" had a profound impact on my childhood.
Times change, and Cooper Stadium has been empty now for nearly three years, decaying and run down. We are fortunate to have local developer Arshot Investments Corp. willing to invest $40 million to bring the stadium site back to life and revitalize an area in dire need of economic revitalization. Franklin County has entered into a purchase agreement with Arshot to buy the stadium site for $3.4 million if zoning is approval by Columbus City Council.
The proposed Cooper Park plan meets all the criteria our Cooper Stadium Alternative Plan Steering Committee set in 2005. The committee listed economic development and job creation at the very top of its list of criteria for re-use of the stadium site. It also indicated a preference for preservation of existing structure and establishment of a regional attraction. The Arshot plan accomplishes all of these objectives and more.
The Clippers drew fans to the site about only 70 days each year. The proposed Cooper Park complex represents an innovative mix of uses, ranging from education and entertainment to retail and hospitality, which promises to bring activity to the site daily. This is not just a racetrack, and its function is not limited to entertainment. The centerpiece of the project is an automotive-research and technology center, which will both facilitate and showcase the city's contributions toward re-invention of the U.S. auto industry.
Teams of automotive engineers will be able to use the track every day for evaluating and refining new vehicle designs and fuel systems. It may also be used for the vocational training of service technicians, for consumer test drives of hybrid and electric vehicles, for staging corporate events and for drawing convention and visitor business to central Ohio. Occasionally, the proposed facility also would be used to host a wide variety of entertainment events, including some motorsport competitions.
Each of these uses is expected to contribute toward creation of at least 300 full- and part-time jobs and spur further economic development in the area. An overwhelming majority of the area's residents and merchants understand this opportunity and support the project.
Over the past three years, Arshot has worked closely with the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium site, with much of that time being devoted to the analysis of potential noise impacts. The Southwest Area Commission hosted multiple public meetings specifically to understand noise issues. Those meetings ultimately resulted in the area commission voting unanimously to approve the project. The project also has been endorsed by the Franklinton Board of Trade and approved by city of Columbus' development staff and the Columbus Development Commission.
Supporters of the project have gathered thousands of signatures from residents and small-business owners who believe that the project offers the most potential for generating true economic development on the Near West Side. It is critical that their voices are heard before the stadium deteriorates to a point that its reuse is impractical.
I hope that in the coming years, the proposed Center for Automotive Research & Technology at Cooper Park will have the same profound impact on the lives of Southwest and Franklinton youth as the "The Coop" did for me.
Mar 29, 2013As part of a new video series, Experience Columbus is highlighting some of the "most impressive new attractions and amenities the city will roll out in the near future". SPARC tops the list of upcoming excitement for Columbus.
And there will be magic and memories again.___________________________________________________________________________
Date: Friday, November 11, 2011By Jeff Bell, Staff reporter - Business First
With approval for his Cooper Park project nearing the finish line at City Hall, Columbus developer Bill Scottenstein has formed an advisory board to help guide the future of the automotive research and technology center planned at the complex.
The board will include auto and technology experts from Central Ohio, a business development official from Columbus2020 and neighborhood representatives near the Cooper Stadium site that Schottenstein wants to turn into an auto racetrack and research facility.
“We want to use their brain power to make this as cutting edge as we possibly can,” said Schottenstein, principal of Arshot Investment Corp.
Those agreeing to serve on the board include Giorgio Rizzoni director of the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University; John Pohill, CEO of electric vehicle developer Venturi North America; Clean Fuels Ohio Executive Director Sam Spoffort; Columbus2020 Chief Economic Officer Kenny McDonald; and Kathy Gattardam, a Franklinton business owner.
While auto racing events are needed to make the project work financially, the research and tech center will be Cooper Park’s linchpin, Schottenstein said. It is being positioned as a hub for the development of advanced vehicle technology, including electric vehicles.
Advisory board members will meet regularly to receive project updates and exchange ideas for expanding the facility’s tenant base, attracting events and promoting Cooper Park as a catalyst for automotive innovation.
“We’re not going into it with any one idea,” Schottenstein said. “Our imagination is our only limitation.”
Naming of the advisory board comes as Arshot prepares for a public hearing Dec. 20 by the city Board of Zoning Adjustment. It will consider a permit needed to hold spectator events, including auto races, at Cooper Park.
The hearing is the final step in a zoning approval process that began this year. The $30 million-plus project cleared a major hurdle in June, when City Council approved a zoning change for the 47-acre baseball park property that Arshot wants to buy from Franklin County.
Council members approved the zoning change over the objections of residents from Franklinton, German Village and other neighborhoods who claim noise from racing events would hurt their property values and quality of life. The project also has its share of supporters on the west side, who have said Arshot’s noise mitigation plan would work and the estimated 300 full- and part-time jobs at Cooper Park are sorely needed in that impoverished part of Columbus.
Approval by the Board of Zoning Adjustment would allow Arshot to begin the process of closing the deal to buy the property, Schottenstein said. Site preparation and demolition of about half the stadium to make way for the racetrack could begin next spring or summer.
It will take about a year to build the track and research center, Schottenstein said, so the facility could begin to open in mid-2013.
No research or tech entities have made commitments to locate at Cooper Park, but Ohio State, Columbus State Community College and Nascar driver Jeff Gordon's racing company have indicated interest in being involved. So does Venturi North America, with Pohill saying the electric vehicle maker is looking at basing its Columbus operations at Cooper Park. Right now, he is the Monaco company’s lone employee in Columbus, but Pohill said he expects to have 20 to 35 designers, engineers and technicians working here on projects by the end of 2012.
Having a track next to the research center, he said, would allow Venturi to develop, test and modify its electric vehicle designs in one place.
“The potential is off the charts,” Pohill said. “This can’t happen fast enough for us.”
Clean Fuels Ohio’s Spofforth said serving on the Cooper Park advisory board jibes with his organization’s efforts to promote the use of vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas and other clean fuels.
“We want to reach out to fleets – government and private-sector – that want to do the right thing (for the environment) and save money along the way,” Spofforth said. “There is a lot of technology that holds out that promise.”
Cooper Park also has the potential to build on the automotive research being done at OSU, he said. In addition, it could contribute to the commercialization and deployment of alternative fuel vehicles.
Columbus2020’s McDonald said he needs to learn more about Cooper Park’s potential but thinks it could become a tool to boost the advanced automotive technology and energy sectors in Central Ohio.
The Cooper Park Automotive Research & Technology Center Advisory Board includes these members so far: