LakePoint Sports is a major player in youth sports.
Metro Atlanta is known as a major sports destination. First, we are fortunate to have access to so many professional sports teams, from football to basketball to soccer to baseball to lacrosse and now, professional rugby. Second, we play host to major professional and collegiate tournaments every year. Third, we are the largest U.S. market for recreational tennis with the 80,000-member Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association. All of these sports provide billions of dollars to our local economy. Another major sports-related business that has a large, local economic impact is LakePoint Sports just across the Cobb County line in Emerson (Bartow County).
LakePoint Sports is known as the nation’s premier youth sports destination with a 1,300-acre complex that serves athletes in 32 sports year-round, including baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, cheer, lacrosse and wakeboarding. The campus features a 170,000-square-foot Champions Center with the world’s largest continuous wood floor where 12, full-court basketball games or 24, full-court volleyball games can play at once. In addition, LakePoint features eight Major League-sized baseball fields and three multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and football, as well as a 10-court sand volleyball pavilion and wakeboarding park. According to LakePoint Sports President Mark M. O’Brien, the compound attracts more than one million visitors a year, creating nearly $100 million in annual economic impact.
“We’re a significant driver and creator of tourism and jobs, and economic impact,” O’Brien said. “…We offer a wide range of sports, events, and activities that are a cross-section of demographics. …On our busiest days, we’ll have over some 10,000-plus folks on campus across a variety of different sports all at once.”
The complex has 32 full-time team members and nearly 200 hourly team members who help to keep the operation running all year. Since its opening in 2014, LakePoint Sports has attracted more than five million visitors from all 50 states and many countries. The idea behind the complex, O’Brien said, was to create a really exciting and compelling sports vacation destination. It is less of an academy-style sports training campus and more of a tournament host, where, for example, the Georgia Special Olympics holds events, and the Prep Baseball Report (PBR) organization hosts multiple tournaments every year. According to O’Brien, PBR is the number-one amateur baseball scouting service in the country, and the leader in tournament showcases for the sport. “This was their first year at LakePoint Sports and we’re really excited about what we’re embarking on and what we have planned for 2020 with PBR,” O’Brien said.
LakePoint Sports ownership chose its location because it is close to the busiest airport in the world — Atlanta is just a two-hour flight from 80 percent of the U.S. population; because 50 percent of the country is actually within driving distance of metro Atlanta; and because the campus is adjacent to I-75. The existing business community also was a draw. “The business community — the Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies that are based here — really align nicely with the activation that we can have on campus to be the right partnerships,” O’Brien said.
Among those partnerships, LakePoint recently co-hosted a middle school basketball tournament with the Atlanta Hawks. And since 2016, the facility has been used as an official training ground and tournament host for the World Famous Harlem Globetrotters. Each fall, there’s an exhibition game that is open to the public. The Harlem Globetrotters are legendary worldwide, synonymous with one-of-a-kind family entertainment and great basketball skills for the past 90 years. Throughout their history, the Original Harlem Globetrotters have showcased their iconic talents in 122 countries and territories on six continents, often breaking down cultural and societal barriers while providing fans with their first-ever basketball experience. If you’ve never seen them play/perform live, it’s definitely a memorable experience.
In addition to just offering event space for the Globetrotters, LakePoint has partnered with the group on its anti-bullying campaign, visiting local schools to help kids. This particular aspect of helping the community is a vital undertaking for LakePoint, whose core principles are expressed in its “Mission, Vision, Purpose & Values” concept, which is meant to provide guests with the best possible experience during their stay, to promote good sportsmanship, and to give back to the community.
Investing in technology
One of the core ways in which LakePoint Sports stays relevant and attracts new business is through investments in technology. This past summer, the company announced a partnership with PlaySight Interactive to provide live streaming video technology. PlaySight is a leader in developing AI software and high-performance video technology for sports coverage. The company has worked with professional teams in the NBA and MLB, as well as with college programs such as the University of Georgia. This partnership establishes LakePoint as PlaySight’s first “SmartCampus,” providing youth athletes, parents, coaches, teams, and fans with automated HD broadcast live streaming thanks to more than 100 cameras installed across the campus, as well as advanced coaching and performance analysis tools.
“This will be a new, added feature and amenity for the athletes, the coaches, the scouts, as well as family members who are on campus or off, because you’ll be able to live-stream and watch everything in real time whether you’re here on campus or on the other side of the world,” O’Brien said.
This level of personalization allows players to create highlight reels to share as a video résumé, while also giving coaches the ability to tag plays and analyze video directly with their athletes on-site or online through PlaySight’s app.
A big campus is getting even bigger
If the governor takes time out of his busy schedule to tour your business, then you know you’re having a major economic impact on the state’s economy. That’s exactly what occurred in October as LakePoint hosted Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp as O’Brien announced a major expansion, the so-called North Campus. Early next year, LakePoint will open a $39-million, 200-room hotel complex (the hotel brand has yet to be revealed) on 500 acres. The new hotel will feature a resort-style pool, food and beverage offerings, and a roof-top terrace above the restaurant for athletes and families to gather.
“We’re looking at a variety of different sports verticals, experiential retail, and restaurants as well as other entertainment and event-like opportunities to really bring to life the North Campus,” O’Brien told Cobb In Focus.
Gov. Kemp and the First Lady joined the City of Emerson and Bartow County in celebrating completion of the 1.3-mile parkway connecting Old Allatoona Road to Red Top Mountain Road, which now connects the two ends of the LakePoint campus. “Our vision is for a vibrant development that features experiential retail, acclaimed restaurants, new lodging opportunities for our guests, and an expansion of venues and fields to create a complete sports and entertainment experience for all who come here,” O’Brien said during the October press event. “The completion of the parkway is essential to opening up new development and increased visitation, economic impact, and job creation.”
“LakePoint Sports is a remarkable asset for greater Metro Atlanta and North Georgia, and we appreciate LakePoint Sports for promoting family time together, creating new jobs in our state, and encouraging young athletes to compete at the highest levels,” Gov. Kemp said at the October news conference.
“This has been a very strong public-private partnership at LakePoint Sports,” added Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor. “And we’re thrilled for what that means for the continued economic growth of our region.”
There is potential for further development at LakePoint, O’Brien said. The company has additional acreage along Lake Allatoona that could be built upon. However, the firm is careful about its growth, so there are no immediate plans. “We’re looking at the North Campus as a priority in terms of what we can develop, and how to further enhance the campus and what is in place today,” he said.
“We’re excited about 2020 and all the new offerings, partnerships, and events that will be on campus,” O’Brien added.