IRONTON — Lawrence County is seeking $3.5 million in state capital grant funds as part of a proposed $35 million sports complex in the Ironton area.
The same funding source helped get the multimillion-dollar Gateway Center project started in Ironton about 10 years ago. The complex now includes two hotels and two restaurants off South 9th Street.
“This is my first go ’round with the capital budget,” said state Rep. Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill.
The community fund for the state of Ohio has only $150 million statewide, Stephens said earlier this week.
“There are a lot more needs than there is money to go around. We have several projects in my district,” he said.
“There are no guarantees for funding,” Stephens said. “It goes through the legislative process.”
Sports Force, a Florida firm, was asked to look at a sports complex for the area similar to projects it built in Pittsburgh and Cedar Point, said Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton Lawrence County Community Action Organization.
The proposed site for the sports complex is about a half-mile north of Ironton on Ohio Route 93, Kline said. The Lawrence Economic Development Corp. owns a 65-acre site in the area along the former Detroit, Toledo and Ironton railroad bed, he said.
“We could tie it in with the Gateway Center project,” Kline said.
The project is the top priority for the Community Action Organization, Ironton aLive, the Lawrence Economic Development Corp. and the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce, Kline said.
The project would rely on private investment along with state, federal and local funding, he said.
“We would look to do it in phases,” Kline said.
The first phase would include outdoor sports, he said. The sports complex could be connected to Lake Vesuvius in the Wayne National Forest for things like ATV and mountain biking trails, he said. It also could connect to Storms Creek for kayaking, he said. Storms Creek flows into the Ohio River in North Ironton.
“We could make Ironton a weekend destination for all types of sports activities,” said Commissioner DeAnna Holliday. “We haven’t tapped into the full potential of the Wayne National Forest.”
“It could be used for mountain biking trails events,” Kline said.