More than 25 years of dreaming and planning and working through setbacks and dead ends were displayed on the face and in the voice of Randy J. Miller, as he took his turn at the podium during a groundbreaking ceremony for his $250 million Legacy Sports Park in Mesa.
A visibly choked up Miller could barely get his words of thanks out to a gathering of more than 100 people who came to see where 320 acres of the former General Motors Proving Grounds in southeast Mesa will be transformed into a world-class sports and entertainment complex, with nearly 100 outdoor sports fields, a facility that can host large tournaments and special events, as well as a 75,000 square foot E-Sports facility that will be one of the first of its kind in Arizona. The facility will truly be a one-stop-shop for the young athletes and their families in Arizona.
“This has been a vision for 28 years,” said Miller, his voice cracking with emotion. “First of all, I want to bring up the two people, the whole purpose behind Legacy was that I wanted to leave my legacy with them, the two most important people in my life, (sons) Chad and Brad.”
The Legacy Sports Park was dreamed up by Miller in 1988, when his two sons were just coming up in the youth sports scene and Miller and his wife were driving all over the Valley to attend various games and tournaments. His original vision was one of a multi-sport complex, and early plans called for a 50-acre complex with soccer, football, baseball and softball fields. Now, thanks to the work of Miller and a large team of supporters and collaborators, Legacy Sports Park is something even grander.
“Sorry, I’m not usually a crybaby but I’ve got some big boy tears going here, so bear with me,” Miller said. “I read something a while back and it said, ‘If God gives you a dream, he will give you the time to fulfill it.’ It took me 28 years to fulfill my dream, but here you are.”
Legacy Sports Park will be an elite competition and training facility for youth sports and E-Sports and a world-class venue for adult recreational sports, as well. The 320 acres will be transformed into a destination facility that those behind the project feel will rival any in the country.
Double-click on the slide show photos below to see them at full size and resolution. (Photos by Mike Mertes, AZ Big Media)
“As a Valley native, somebody who grew up here, this is a very exciting day for me to be able to bring this concept back to the community that I grew up in,” said Chad Miller. “This will have a true economic impact, not just for the City of Mesa, but to the Southeast Valley, Phoenix metropolitan area and the state of Arizona.
“This is something that we are excited to get underway. The East Coast has Disney’s Wide World of Sports and the West Coast will have Legacy Sports.”
During his emotional speech, Randy Miller also brought up on the podium his longtime partner in Legacy, general counsel and managing member Mike Baggett, and Jeff Puzzullo, who is the construction owners representative.
“As everybody said and talked about here, yes, it’s been 28 long years and we’ve hit a lot of speed bumps along the way and there were a few people who bought in and believed with me at the beginning,” Miller said. “These two gentlemen, I have to share this day with, because they’ve been with me all the craziness we’ve gone through.”
Miller is chairman of Legacy Sports USA and his son Chad is CEO. The developer of the project is the non-profit arm of the Legacy company is Legacy Cares, Inc., whose president is former Coyotes president and COO Doug Moss. Financial backing, to the tune of $250 million, was secured by Ziegler, a capital and investments company that specializes in funding for non-profit organizations like Legacy Cares, Inc.
“This is going to be a game-changing project for the region,” said Dan Hermann, president of Ziegler, which is based in Chicago and has a Scottsdale office. “You have major national investors investing in this project, such as Vanguard and SIT and McGuire and the Principal Group, which is amazing. Of the $250 million that was raised of unrated debt, it wouldn’t have happened without the story of the Legacy Cares, not for profit organization. That’s what we specialize in, the not for profit. That’s a neat part of the story. As this project is successful, the money is going to be poured back into the efforts around the Valley around Youth sports. As we got to tell that story to the investors over a six week period, they really warmed up to it and those folks are going to be excited to come out and also see this as its built out. Looking forward to those first investor visits.”
Waltz is the general contractor on the project, with work set to begin within the next month. The land that the project sits on was a former test track area at the GM Proving Grounds and will require much less earth work than projects in previously undeveloped desert property. If the work schedule stays on track, some fields will be completed and ready to use in November of 2021, with the full facility scheduled to be completed in 2022.
Legacy Sports Park has brought in Oak View Group, a highly respected global venue development, advisory, and investment company. Oak View Group will be responsible for securing a naming rights partner and founding partners for the property, attracting top-quality events to the indoor arena, outdoor amphitheater, and festival grounds. Additionally, once opened, Oak View Group will manage and operate Legacy Sports Park.
Oak View Group is at the forefront of assisting arenas, stadiums, and convention centers worldwide in the new protocol to reopen facilities post-COVID-19.
“One thing you need if you want to be an elite athlete, you have to have elite facilities and this will be an elite facility with the fieldhouse, the fields, the hotel,” said Peter Luukko, chairman of Oak View Group Facilities. “We’re going to bring an entertainment piece to this. That’s where the world is going right now and this is the first of its kind. As much as we may be involved at the highest level of sport, this is the integration, this is where our business is going.”
The outdoor facilities include the development of:
• Multi-field soccer complex that includes 23 soccer fields with the ability to expand to 50
• One 8,000-seat Multi-purpose Stadium
• Soccer Performance Playground mirrored after Manchester United’s performance playground
• 20 Sand Volleyball Courts, including one Stadium Court
• 40 Pickleball Courts, including one Stadium Court
• Six Sand Soccer fields
• Eight baseball/softball fields including one baseball/softball Stadium
• 50-acre special events area for concerts, festivals, and events
The park will also feature an indoor multi-sports building that will house:
• 62 volleyball courts including (1) Multi-purpose Arena
• 16 NBA basketball courts with (1) Multi-purpose Arena
• Six Olympic size Futsal Courts
• 75,0000-square-foot eSports Arena
• 50,000-square-foot Gymnastics, Cheer, and Dance Center
• Youth Gym / Child Care Center
• Yoga Studios
• 25,000-square-foot Sports Performance Center headed up by Olympic Goal Medalist – Dan O’Brien
• 25,000-square-foot General Fitness Center, with health, fitness, wellness, and nutrition coaches
• 20,000-square-foot Sports bar and restaurant
• Food Courts
• Athletic Apparel Shops
The Legacy Sports Park will also include a multi-purpose outdoor amphitheater designed for concerts, family shows, exhibitions, and conventions.