Hobbs sees success with sports complex

February 25, 2019

Odessa asked for help from the Texas Legislature last month to be redirect hotel tax funds to build a sports complex in the city, something even smaller cities, like Hobbs, N.M., have had success with.

Hobbs Center of Recreational Excellence, or The CORE, has been open for nearly nine months, and already maintains around 7,000 members at the 158,000 square-foot facility. In a county of nearly 70,000, that means nearly 1 in 10 residents are going to the CORE.

“It has absolutely worked out as we had hoped as far as everyone taking advantage,” CORE Marketing Coordinator Lindsay Chism said. “There’s never been anything like this in our area or another area of this size.”

The first talks of the complex in Hobbs, which is about 90 miles west of Odessa, began as far back as 20 years ago, Chism said. Community leaders began wanting a facility like this, and 10 years ago is when formal discussions began, before finally assembling a team to kick off the project in 2014.

By 2015, they had plans on paper, and had assembled their six partners for the $63.5 million project, consisting of four capital contributors and two advisory partners. The largest contributor came from the private Hobbs-based JF Maddox Foundation. Other partners included the City itself, Hobbs Municipal Schools, and New Mexico Junior College. Lea County and the University of the Southwest acted as advisory partners, but had no stake in contributing to capital or operations.

“If it were not for those private-public partnerships, this facility would not be able to exist,” Chism said. “That’s just the facts. If those people did not all come together and have a common goal and be willing to put all their common goals under one roof, we would not have the CORE.”

Odessa City Council members began having open discussions about a possible sports complex in January, after Mayor David Turner said a member of the local hotel association had approached him about the idea. The idea for funding of the complex right now is the City would allocate funds from the hotel occupancy tax to build a sports complex to draw in families for local tournaments. The motion approved by the Council last month involves asking state legislators to allow the City to allocate 20 percent of the fund to be used for the project. But it’s nonbinding, so they can still change their mind about the project later on.

The CORE does host its own tournaments, including hosting the local school district’s swim meets, and hosting their own tournaments for sports like racquetball, it’s a fairly small part of the complex. They offer an indoor turf area for sports like soccer, basketball courts, strength training and cardio equipment, an indoor playground, an outdoor turf area and patio, and three swimming pools.

The pools include a competitive pool, a therapy pool, and a leisure pool, which includes a lazy river and two water slides—one that actually travels through the facility and one that goes outside of the facility before circling back in. They recently received the “Leading Edge Award” for the pool from the World Waterpark Association, competing with other countries like China.

And they try to keep the membership prices affordable for members, at $28 a month for residents and $40 a month for non-residents. One of the hopes of Odessa’s City Council is that their new sports complex could bring in more revenue, but at such a high price tag, Chism said their facility hasn’t paid for itself yet, but that wasn’t the point for them.

“We do not run this like a private business because we have to work within the confines of the city,” Chism said. “It’s a quality-of-life benefit.”

Quality of life was something stressed by Hobbs District 6 City Commissioner Don Gerth as well, calling it one of the main goals of the City.

“There’s nothing worse than having an oil boom like we’re having now and nothing for anybody to do for recreational use,” Gerth said.

Odessa District 2 City Council Member Dewey Bryant said he thinks any type of sports complex would improve quality of life, but would also be a means of bringing in people from out of town. Odessa is different as well due to its location, Bryant added, as it’s on the main thoroughfare between El Paso and Dallas, and would be using other facilities like hotels.

“Are you gonna make money out of it? I don’t know, but I do think that it will enhance whatever you may have just because of that,” Bryant said.

Bryant added that he wasn’t sure how similar the complex would be to the CORE, but had mainly seen it to be more along the lines of usage for softball and baseball tournaments.

CORE Director Catherine Vorrasi said the expenses of the place are close to $4 million annually, with a cost recovery of about 50 percent, but said the facility hasn’t been open long enough for them to really break down numbers like monthly operational costs.

The new facility hasn’t saturated the market either, Chism said there are several other fitness facilities around town that many residents still go to, often having memberships at the CORE and their own gym.

“There was a lot of worry that we would end up shutting a lot of these people down, but we offer something completely different,” Vorrasi said.

Odessa At-Large City Council Member Peggy Dean said the City was still in the research phase of the project and said she reached out to the Mayor of Hobbs about taking a tour of the CORE themselves at some point. She said she would be open to similarly partnering with other public and private entities to get the complex built.

“Public-private partnerships now I think are very important, because not any entity has enough money to do everything that needs to be done, so I think that’s gonna be necessary for all kinds of projects,” Dean said. “I think we’ll be able to make it happen.”