Construction Begins on SPARC Race Track Project
Demolition has officially begun at the old Cooper Stadium site, located just southwest of Downtown Columbus. Portions of the baseball stadium are being removed for a renovation project that will turn the land into the Sports Pavilion & Automotive Research Complex, also known as SPARC.
The project first made public waves in 2008, before the Columbus Clippers had even finished their final game prior to their relocation to Huntington Park in 2009. After much public discussion over noise issues, economic development, neighborhood integration with Franklinton and other concerns, the race track was announced as moving forward.
Our last major update came in the form of an in-depth two-page interview with SPARC developer Bill Schottenstein in October, 2012. Other than a partnership announced with Midwestern Auto Group, there’s been little activity at the stadium, leading some people questioning whether or not the whole thing had been cancelled. But Schottenstein assured us yesterday that the project is still moving forward.
“What transpired is that our partner Michael Waltrip took the project to heart and wanted to work on the design of the track,” explained Schottenstein. “So we had to work around his schedule, which was more difficult but very rewarding to work with him on it. It took a lot longer to get the design finished, and then work through a second architect and make sure we got the inspections completed.”
Schottenstein said that he does not want to rush the project too quickly, and anticipates that some of the phases of SPARC will come online in mid-to-late 2015 with other phases wrapping up in early 2016. This summer will see focused demolition work continue on the conversion of the old stadium.
“Obviously, portions of the stadium will be gone and some new construction will be going on with the site,” he stated. “We have some areas that will be maintained and we might start seeing the track coming together.”
Another announcement is slated sometime in the coming weeks, where Schottenstein expects to be able to announce additional partnerships that have formed at SPARC over the course of the past few years.
“For us to feel this project is successful, we have to help the area,” added Schottenstein. “The impact has got to spill out into the community, otherwise we haven’t accomplished a whole lot. We’re confident that we’ve done that and people will be very excited.”
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More information can be found online at www.sparcohio.com.
Photos by Walker Evans.