Local

Dozens attend forum for controversial $15.5M athletics complex in Brownsburg

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — Dozens of Brownsburg residents filled the Town Council chambers Thursday night to hear more about a controversial $15.5 million athletics complex proposed for the north side of the Hendricks County town.

News 8 first reported about this project as the Town Council a week ago decided to table a vote on the complex after more than an hour of discussion.

While proponents believe the project would be a huge draw for the area, thereby worthy of economic development tax funding, others aren’t so sure.

The idea is simple: Spend millions to build 12 ballfields on about 100 acres.

“We’re trying to lay the groundwork so that other youth sports in our town can also reap the benefits of this green space,” said Travis Smith, the president of Brownsburg Little League Baseball.

But, opponents say, it’s a lot more complicated than that. They believe the true cost is millions more when factoring in the price of the land, other sitework, inflation, and future phases that would build sports fields for other sports, with no guarantee the money will be there.

“I’m not against the kids. I’m not against ballfields, but we have to be financially responsible with our tax dollars,” said resident Troy Austin.

Most of Thursday’s meeting was spent with the Little League presidents going over their numbers and taking questions from the Town Council and Park Board.

John Rabold and some residents though weren’t happy they couldn’t go on the record with their thoughts and were forced to approach members directly, meaning those tuning in online didn’t get to hear their opposition.

“Frustrated in that I have an opinion that couldn’t be explained in this meeting when all the people were in,” Rabold said.

“It’s really diving into the details to find out what the true cost to our community is.” Austin added. “We have a lot of not-for-profits that would love to have access to these same funds.”

Travis Tranbarger, director of the Brownsburg Parks department, said that’s coming, but the town has to start somewhere.

In this case, it’s baseball and softball, sports with long traditions in Brownsburg, with leagues that have promised $10 million over 20 years, raised through hosting tournaments as well as sponsorships.

Proponents believe the new fields will be a major draw to an area that is undeveloped but will be very close to the future expansion of Ronald Reagan Parkway.

“We feel this is a win for all the community. While we have been talking just baseball and softball for this first phase, we expect other phases continue to develop over the years, there will be park amenities for everyone to enjoy,” Tranbarger said.

Smith hopes all questions, or at least enough of the important ones, are answered with a public presentation of the project that was very similar to the one given to the Town Council in an closed-door session in August.

“You have to have a cornerstone to bring people up there to get traffic to bring restaurants and hotels. We’re hoping that the sports park will be the cornerstone there,” Smith said.

A council vote is scheduled for March 25.

Tranbarger said he believes the council will make the right decision, regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative vote.

“I do have confidence that our elected officials will make the decision that’s best for the common good of the community,” he said. “There’s an opportunity if it’s a no vote to still go back to the drawing board and see how we can make it work.”

MORE STORIES