WESTFIELD, Ind. — January will see the Grand Park Events Center transformed into a pickleball mecca.
It is the new home to the inaugural Association of Pickleball Players U.S. Collegiate Championship and Midwest Open.
”To be on the leading edge of a nationwide tournament, hey, we’re proud,” said Westfield Mayor Andy Cook.
The event is the first of its kind and marks the beginning of a multi-year partnership. College teams can register to enter and competitors of all ages and skill levels can enter the Midwest Open.
The tournament will happen Jan. 3-7 and is expected to bring more than 5,000 people to Westfield.
New flooring will transform Grand Parks Event Center and create almost 30 pickleball courts. It will also open up the event centers to more sports, as well.
Scott Willis is a current Westfield City Councilor and is running unopposed for mayor in November. He said this is a great step in filling Grand Park 365 days a year.
”We have a dead period of four or five months where nothing is happening outside of local sporting events, but this will drive tourism at a time where Indiana does not typically see it,” Willis said.
By the time the first pickleball match is played inside Grand Park, the sports campus could be under new management.
The city has been looking for someone to take over that role for more than a year now.
”They would basically plop in and take ownership of all the activities that happen here,” Willis said.
The city was originally looking for someone to buy Grand Park in March of 2022. Then, a year later, the city announced it was only looking for someone to take over management of Grand Park.
At a recent city meeting, some councilors voiced concerns about how long the process is taking.
Current Westfield Mayor Andy Cook said the process is complicated and takes time.
”I hope to have a public-private venture announced by the end of the year that will take Grand Park, literally, to the next level,” Cook said.
Willis said the process of finding Grand Park’s new management has been frustrating at times, but he’s glad to be more involved now.
”I just know it’s a very complicated process. We want to get it right and if it takes us a few more months to get it right then that’s what needs to happen,” he said.
During an August meeting of the Westfield City Council and City Redevelopment Commission, Willis took a more hands-on approach to the future of Grand Park, becoming directly involved with the process of finding a new manager.
”We’re looking at development agreements, we’re looking at a future vision for Grand Park and some things will change and it’s all exciting,” Willis said.
Willis said they are down to three bidders from the original seven that showed interest in Grand Park originally. He said those bidders are a client of Cushman and Wakefield, Sports Facilities Companies, LLC and Indy Sports and Entertainment, LLC and related entities.
Willis said there is a meeting scheduled for later in September to decide on which bid to go with and begin negotiations.
”I fully expect the first quarter of my administration next year we’ll be making an announcement, if not sooner,” Willis said.
After a deal for Grand Park is done, Willis said his next mission is building up around and in Grand Park.
”We have 40 acres inside the park that are undeveloped so we’re looking in this partnership for how do we build a village or just pieces that we don’t have currently around the park that would keep people here around the dead space in between games and tournaments,” Willis said.
For those looking to participate in the APP U.S. Collegiate Championships and Midwest Open, you can find registration information at this link.