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Adam L. Neal, Treasure Coast Newspapers
“Isn’t that a kick in the head?” Dean Martin used to sing.
I asked myself the same question after listening to Christopher Corey describe plans for a massive 37-acre sports complex along Midway Road, just over a mile west of Interstate 95 in St. Lucie County.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to believe that Corey and his partners can realize their vision for the property, which is located near the Wavegarden development project approved by the Fort Pierce City Commissions in January. At this point, I have no reason to believe Corey and his team can’t pull it off.
If successful, the as yet unnamed project would provide recreational facilities and economic benefits not only to St. Lucie County but to the entire Treasure Coast region.
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What they propose is really – if you will pardon the pun – a game changer:
• Phase one of the project requires six full-size soccer fields and the associated infrastructure needed to support them. To accommodate younger children in 7v7 tournaments, the property could be divided into up to 18 fields.
• Phase two would include the construction of eight full-size basketball courts, which could also be converted into up to 16 volleyball courts. This phase would include numerous other amenities, including spectator seating areas around the courts, a cafeteria, infirmary, merchandise store, training and meeting rooms, rehabilitation and conditioning centers, and possibly a hotel for out-of-town visitors attending youth tournaments .
• The final phase of the project would be a 5,000-7,000 seat soccer stadium and a sports-themed charter school accommodating up to 500 students. The stadium would be the potential home for a semi-professional minor league football team. The school would have a full academic curriculum with a focus on sports management modeled on charter schools operated by Sports Leadership Arts Management in seven Florida cities.
Leslie Olson, director of the District Planning Group, a Fort Pierce firm that will see the project through the regulatory approval process, said a pre-application request is scheduled to be submitted to St. Lucie County on Friday.
“When built, this project will implement the county’s economic development goals of improving the quality of life that businesses seek when considering new locations, and implementing the Parks Master Plan’s recently updated vision of improving recreational facilities for the community,” wrote Olson an email. “The most exciting thing about this project for the community is that it implements public goals with private funding.”
Corey didn’t go into detail with me about how the project would be funded. However, he and his partners wisely choose to gather community input before finalizing their plans.
“We want to hear from everyone,” Corey said. “We want to hear from young sports parents. We want to hear from community leaders. …People have many questions. We want to be an open book.”
Corey and Jerome Stone, the main owner, seem to have the right pedigree to tackle such a project.
Corey owns Football Farm, a 25-acre complex on Leighton Farm Avenue in Palm City that serves as the headquarters for youth football club Treasure Coast United and other community-based youth football programs.
He is also the City of Miami’s World Cup liaison and responsible for grassroots initiatives and community engagement for the international soccer tournament that will return to the United States in 2026.
Stone is a partner in a Stuart based law firm specializing in sports and entertainment law. He is a former college football and track and field athlete who serves as a sports agent for players in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.
Stone and Corey say they want to design facilities that not only cater to young athletes, but also to their parents and other viewers.
“There are simple things every team needs that just aren’t available at most facilities,” Stone said in a press release. “My goal is to create an environment that offers young athletes the full experience of the sport while being considerate of the team and the needs of parents.”
For example, Corey said the complex would have numbered fields to make it easier for athletes and parents to orient themselves and areas for bus parking to accommodate traveling teams. Other family-friendly perks would include a lounge area for parents and an arcade for kids.
Assuming the project is successful, the potential economic benefits are clear. Regional youth tournaments would bring in visitors from outside who would spend money in the community. As Olson mentioned, the complex would be a convenience that could entice businesses to relocate to the area.
And although minor league football teams have been in and out of the Treasure Coast, I believe there are a significant number of fans (myself included) who would like to have this form of entertainment here.
Acknowledgments Rick Hatcher and Ryan Strickland, executives of Play Treasure Coast Sports Tourism, formerly Treasure Coast Sports Commission, for encouraging Stone and Corey to bring their vision to life.
“It’s a needed venue that will be able to serve the Treasure Coast and surrounding regions,” said Hatcher. “We see a very strong future for a project like this.”
So can this development group actually make this project happen? I can’t say for sure.
Here’s what I believe: you have a very good and innovative plan. They’re hoping for community input to turn this into an even better plan.
In other words, I would say they did their best.
This column reflects the opinion of Blake Fontenay. Contact him via email at [email protected] or at 772-232-5424.