Bigger and Better

By Maura Keller | Photography: ©Rockford Park District – Photo by Jesse Fox

Organized athletics are woven into the fabric of the American tradition. Millions of men and women, boys and girls participate in baseball, basketball, track and field, and other sports. As such, the Midwest is home to a variety of new and newly renovated sports venues—allowing sports teams, fans and tournament organizers to fill these venues to capacity and keep fans coming back for more.


In Rockford, Ill., the new UW Health Sports Factory was recently completed to regain sports tourism in the region. Operated and owned by Rockford Park District, the UW Health Sport Factory is a world-class facility located on the former Ingersoll factory site in the heart of the main manufacturing hub in Rockford. The transformation has resulted in a facility teeming with sports options, including multiple hard courts for basketball, volleyball, pickle ball, wrestling, cheerleading and other sports.

The 108,000-square-foot facility (96,000 feet is hard court surface) includes eight hardwood basketball courts that are convertible for 16 volleyball courts, along with a championship court complete with bleachers. All hoops and volleyball nets are 100 percent suspended and are controlled through a wireless system, and can be transformed in minutes via an iPad or computer.

In addition to the sports facilities, the space also boasts four meeting rooms and a full-service restaurant, which includes a patio overlooking the Rock River. The facility also includes a Riverwalk, which goes around the entire building and features bump-out areas overlooking the Rock River, and a south patio featuring seating areas and a tent.

305 S. Madison St., Rockford IL 61104 • (815) 966-8770 •


Deemed “the nation’s most iconic stadium for youth baseball,” the new Ballparks of America complex in Branson, Mo., offers 10- to 13-year-olds the opportunity to play on two-thirds size replicas of five iconic and historic baseball stadiums, including Wrigley Field (Chicago), Tiger Stadium (Detroit), Busch Stadium (St. Louis), Fenway Park (Boston) and Ebbets Field (Brooklyn Dodgers). Situated amidst the Ozark Mountains, the Ballparks of America is located in the family—focused vacation destination of Branson, which is complete with theme parks, shopping, dining, recreational water and golf courses.

The initial $20 million construction project converted existing buildings from the former Red Roof Mall into clubhouses, grandstands, shops and other stadium amenities.

In addition, players can experience the complex’s stay-and-play facilities, rooming with their teammates at the MLB-style team suites, complete with recreation amenities aplenty. The team dorm suites feature Major League-style open lockers, private showers, flat-screen televisions with gaming consoles and separate sleeping areas. Each suite is approximately 1,000 square feet.

While the players stay in dorms, Branson tourism officials hope their parents will spend their money at area hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

1000 Pat Nash Drive, Branson, MO 65616 • (312) 961-9792 •


With over 148,000 square feet of premier multi-sport, convention and private party space, the Wichita Sports Forum located in Wichita, Kan., houses a trampoline park, basketball and volleyball courts, sand volleyball courts and an indoor soccer field that converts to a baseball or softball practice area. The complex, which plays host to both tournaments and team practices, features a 20,000-square-foot trampoline park called Aviate, which is a separate business housed in the building, and the remaining 120,000 feet includes various courts and fields for different sports.

Specifically, the complex has six basketball courts that convert to 10 volleyball courts, eight batting cages, a turf soccer field that converts to a softball or baseball infield, a weight training area and six sand volleyball courts that convert into two sand soccer fields. All of the courts and fields are regulation size for high schools, and the sand for the sand volleyball area consists of Olympic-quality sand.

Aside from the sports areas, the complex also includes a concessions stand, six party and event rooms, and two mezzanines, including one overlooking the entire complex for parents and spectators to watch games and practices.

2668 N Greenwich Court, Wichita, KS 67226 • (316) 201-1414 •


Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Ind., is a planned youth and adult recreational sports village designed to become a favorite family sports destination among sports aficionados. Completed in 2016, the facility is a 400-acre sports campus featuring a full-range of championship-level outdoor facilities for baseball, softball and field sports including soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse and two planned indoor sports facilities designed for year-round play.

The Grand Park Sports Campus, one of the largest sporting complexes in the world, includes three full-sized professional turf fields, a spectator lounge, retail space, locker facilities, office and meeting space, and administrative offices. It also features multi-use space for trade shows, live entertainment, conventions and special event programming, including large indoor field sports events in the massive 370,000-square-foot facility.

Soccer, lacrosse, football, flag football and ultimate frisbee are just some of the field sports that can be hosted at Grand Park. In the future, the entire complex will be surrounded by dining, retail and entertainment venues, all geared toward supporting and enhancing the family sports atmosphere and experience.

19000 Grand Park Blvd., Westfield, IN 46074 • (317) 804-3010 •


Hope Sports Complex, located in Lansing, Mich., is a state-of-the-art sports complex, completed in 2015. The complex is complete with the area’s finest artificial turf sports fields with high-end sports lighting for night games for soccer, tackle and flag football, kickball, ultimate frisbee, lacrosse, youth baseball and softball. The championship artificial turf field is permanently lined for soccer, lacrosse, youth baseball and softball and is available for rent.

To satiate the palates of hungry players and spectators, the Cleats Bar & Grille offers a wealth of menu items for youth and adults alike.

5801 Aurelius Road, Lansing, MI  48911   (517) 319-0344 •


June 2016 was the grand opening of the Dakota Fields Sports Complex in the heart of Rapid City, S.D. At a cost of $12 million, the facility is slated to host some of the leading sports tournaments in the Midwest. Conveniently located, the complex offers 12 regulation-size fields for soccer, lacrosse and football, eight of which are lighted for evening play. In addition, parking for 600, a family picnic area, bus parking and local vendor spaces make the new complex convenient for teams and families alike.

Located just a mile north of Interstate 90, the complex also boasts future expansion plans and design features that will add to the complex’s appeal.

3737 North Elk Vale Road, Rapid City, SD 57701 • (800) 487-3223 • (Rapid City CVB)


Peoria, Ill. is home to the new Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, a state-of-the-art sports facility that attracts approximately 11,000 competitive games each year, with 250,000 visitors.

This $18 million central Illinois complex, which opened in 2015, is complete with 10 outdoor baseball and softball fields using synthetic turf. In addition, the complex features MLB-style walkout dugouts, bullpens, electronic scoreboards, and a 125,000-square-foot dome with two indoor baseball/softball fields and other flooring that allows for a myriad of other sports, including soccer and lacrosse. With the Louisville Slugger brand playing a large role in the complex, a small version of the beloved Louisville Slugger Museum, in Louisville, Ky., is included in the complex.

Many participants in the games featured at the complex will be entered into the Louisville Slugger Youth Hall of Fame and have their names enshrined on a specially designated website where each individual will be featured.

8400 N. Orange Prairie Road, Peoria IL 61615 • (844) 477-6789 •