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Could a sports-entertainment complex like the North Country has never seen be coming to Watertown? The town’s supervisor says not only is it happening, but that he hopes to break ground on the project later this year.
It’s been a vision, a dream for town of Watertown Supervisor Joel Bartlett since he took office, 20 years ago.
“Quite a while yes, about 20 years. I’ve grown old during the course of it,” he said.
But it’s now closer to reality that ever before.
“The Thousand Islands LDC, that is who is going to own the property. In about 30 days they are going to be closing on all of this,” Bartlett added.
It’s all of this and a lot more.
Plans for this mega sports/event center include three outdoor and two indoor turf fields, numerous basketball and volleyball courts, a hydraulic track, two NHL sized ice sheets, a restaurant and bar, 265,000 square feet for conferences and trade shows, 9,000 seats for concerts and more.
“We want the region to be proud of this and we want the developer to be proud of the region,” Bartlett said.
The developer is a company named Mike Sherman Sports. Sports fans should certainly know that name.
Sherman is the former coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers. His company has about $10 billion in on-going projects and just finished a big one.
“They just finished with the UBS Arena in Belmont. That’s the new home of the New York Islanders," said Sherman.
With eyes here local on youth, high school and college sports, Bartlett says the gap in the market from Ottawa to Binghamton will not only bring hundreds of thousands of people, but those families will spend upwards of $140 million a year, providing a boost to sales and bed tax – with 93,000 overnight stays estimated – but also create jobs, both on-site and construction.
“It’s going to be an enormous benefit to not only just this Watertown area and Jefferson County, but all of the 1000 Islands region, north and south of that,” he added.
It’s all something he says, can be done without a single tax dollar coming from a local taxing entity, although there will be an ask of New York State for $30 million of the $80 million overall cost.
“You could consider that tax dollars in a roundabout way, but you’ve got to look at it this way, if that money is not spent here, it’s going to be spent somewhere else,” he stressed.
While he believes New York State will step up to the plate, Bartlett says there are contingency plans in place to make sure this project is a go, either way.
Bartlett says officials could break ground on the complex as soon as later this year. If all goes according to plan, it would open in January of 2024.