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Why Henke Development Group targeted Kokomo for its next project

Championship Park could be open as soon as late 2020

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PROJECT — Kokomo’s ever-shrinking proximity to Indianapolis played a major role in Henke Development Group’s decision to build in the City of Firsts.

Last week the recently-announced plan to construct an $86 million youth sports and commercial development on Kokomo’s east side cleared its first major development hurdle, and the developer explained exactly why Kokomo was chosen as the organization’s next development target.

Championship Park will entail $77 million in private investment by Henke Development Group, the same organization that erected Grand Park Sports Complex in Westfield, and an estimated $9 million investment by the city of Kokomo. Once completed, the project will consist of both eight multi-purpose athletic fields and the development of 16 out lots, to be occupied by a range of businesses from restaurants and retail to new hotels and office space.

All of this will be located on 55 acres of land near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Markland Avenue. As it turns out, the land’s proximity to the major highway, as well as Kokomo’s ever-shrinking proximity to Indianapolis played a major factor in Henke Development Group’s decision to build in the City of Firsts.

“Kokomo is closer to Indianapolis all the time. With the interstate removing the stop lights in Westfield and Carmel, you’re at least 15 minutes closer to 465,” said Steve Henke, the president of Henke Development Group.

And another reason, according to the company president, comes directly from Grand Park, the 400-acre development consisting of 26 baseball diamonds and 31 multipurpose fields about 40 minutes from Kokomo. Simply put, he said, demand had exceeded capacity at the Westfield facility.

“It can also host some of the tournament traffic from Grand Park … They have 50 teams on a waiting list every week, more than enough to staff the fields. We looked at that from a standpoint of the fields and everything, then we looked at the commercial development and being on 31 as well as Markland. That whole area is a prime area, I think, to really establish a really beautiful gateway into Kokomo.”

Henke said Championship Park could produce economic benefits in Kokomo as well.

Such an outcome occurred with Grand Park in Westfield. The Westfield facility’s construction began in 2011. Since then, the city has attributed $700 million of economic activity to Grand Park. Additionally, in the past five years, the city’s net assessed value increased 62 percent. Such numbers may not come from Kokomo’s much more modest development, but Henke said growth could follow Championship Park.

“It would be hard for me to say how much it would expand out from it,” said Henke. “I think certainly we have 50-some acres there, so that’s not a lot of acreage. So, I think there’s a really good possibility it will expand past that, but how much it’s hard to say.”

The developer also offered a timeline for the project. The Kokomo Plan Commission approved rezoning measures associated with the development of Championship Park last week, moving the rezoning proposal to the Kokomo Common Council.

From there, Henke said work will continue.

“We will continue our planning and our concept planning and layouts and begin more of our engineering,” said Henke. “Once we get the zoning approval, we will be full speed ahead. We would love to move some dirt yet this year. That’s weather-depending … We’d love to be able to do that before the end of the year and, if not, certainly spring. These fields would probably be even available to use by the end of next summer. Certainly they would be available all of 2021 but could be available late 2020.”

The commercial development will coincide with the field development, according to Henke.