Indoors and out‚ sports greatly influence the lives of all Northland residents‚ regardless of their actual participation. While the region boasts a wide variety of public recreation areas‚ it also has competition-level facilities that fuel the economy and enhance the area’s quality of life. The Northland currently benefits from Fountain Bluff Sports Complex‚ a competition-level outdoor sports development in Liberty‚ and community leaders are looking forward to a brand new‚ indoor sports complex making a splash when it opens in Gladstone in December 2007.
The Fountain Bluff Sports Complex opened in June 2002 and includes nine baseball/softball fields and six soccer fields‚ as well as trails for walking and jogging. The beautiful‚ 146-acre outdoor facility has eight ponds – five with fountains – that are used to irrigate the fields. The complex is located on land with historical significance‚ with ties to the Lewis and Clark Expedition‚ Liberty Landing‚ the Mormon Trail and a World War II prisoner of war camp. “We are busy seven days a week‚ with youth baseball tournaments and leagues‚ and we’ve started to have quite a bit of success with our youth soccer program‚” says Dennis Dovel‚ manager of the complex. “Last year more than 20‚000 par ticipants played in events through our leagues and tournaments‚” Dovel says. “And that number doesn’t even count spectators.” The list of tournaments includes national championships for youth baseball and softball. “These bring in 40-60 teams‚ about 80 percent from outside the area. Those people stay in our hotels‚ eat at our restaurants and bring money into the community‚” Dovel says. The new Gladstone Community Center will benefit the economy similarly‚ as well as provide a place for community events and meetings. The $18 million‚ 80‚000-square-foot facility is being built largely with funds generated by a 2005 tax increase‚ and thanks to a partnership between the city of Gladstone and the North Kansas City School District‚ it will house a competition-quality natatorium. The audience area for the indoor‚ eight-lane‚ competitive pool will seat 1‚500 and will have a video replay and score board. The community center will host swim meets for boys’ and girls’ teams at four area high schools. In addition‚ the pool will be equipped with a diving well and one-and three-meter boards for diving competitions. The center also will house a leisure pool‚ a wellness/fitness area that includes a walking track‚ a dance studio‚ a cardiovascular and aerobics area‚ a multipurpose gym and a conference center seating up to 250 people. “This is truly a community building‚” says Sheila Lillis‚ Gladstone’s parks and recreation director. “We‚ as a city‚ have never really had any indoor recreational space. It’s all outside. It’s wonderful that we will have a place to exercise and a place to meet‚ all under one roof. You can bring the whole family here – dad‚ mom‚ grandpa‚ grandma and little Johnny. There’s something for everybody.”