The new indoor sports arena at Celebration Pointe in Gainesville is expected to begin hosting events in January 2023.
At Tuesday’s Alachua County Commission meeting, Deputy County Manager for Public Works and Growth Management James Harriott announced the current schedule for the project has the center’s first major event targeted for Jan. 7, 2023, though he did not specify what the inaugural event would be.
The initial planning for this project came in 2019 and included amenities such as indoor courts, an indoor track, and plenty of seating and parking. It was first intended to serve as a multipurpose venue for opportunities ranging from sporting events to auto shows and concerts.
The project would be funded by the county’s tourist development tax, commonly known as the bed tax. The estimated cost is $68.5 million, and the venue could help bring more tourism benefits to the county.
After months of debate at commission meetings regarding potential locations for the project, the county voted unanimously in November 2020 to begin negotiations with Celebration Pointe, a city living, dining and shopping mall that has convenient access to hotels and Interstate 75.
There was a planning meeting on Feb. 17 during which the county’s Growth Management Department discussed the latest version of the plan, which included a list of environmental goals and considerations provided by county staff to build into the facility. The goals focused on energy conservation, water conservation and air quality.
The proposed floor plan continues to morph and now includes 13 indoor courts, an NCAA-qualified track and batting cages.
“This is an attempt to broaden the use of this facility so in non-major event times or lower peak times they can move other things in,” Harriott said.
The floor plan also now includes a space for cheerleading competitions and a fitness area.
The department has even been talking with the operator of the Easton Sports Complex in Newberry about adding archery opportunities that would enhance what is offered at their location.
Another update on the events center came later in the meeting when discussion turned to the Celebration Pointe Map Comprehensive Plan Amendment.
The amendment allows for the events center, and it denoted that it should be considered a civic use. The amendment went on to say that the multisport floor area and facilities — including locker rooms, offices and restrooms — should not be calculated toward the total non-residential square footage allowance for the development.
The Growth Management Department proposed adding to the policy that the development should not have a maximum building footprint size as opposed to the current code that would limit the size to 65,000 square feet.
Celebration Pointe agreed with the proposed changes with the intent that the development of the events center could move forward quickly.
Jonathan Paul, a planner for Celebration Pointe, told the commission that he would “strongly request that you do transmit this because it is part of the overall moving forward.”
Paul also added that the policy change would not interfere with Celebration Pointe and Alachua County’s decisions and concerns on who owns what, what is going to be built, or how it is going to look.
The commission voted to transmit the section of the amendment to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and it will continue to discuss other potential changes to the amendment at its meeting on March 9.