Louisville Slugger Sale Won’t Stall Peoria Sports Complex

PEORIA, Ill.—Sale of the Louisville Slugger brand won’t impede development of namesake sports complex in Northwest Peoria, according to the facility’s executive director. 

Dan Cunningham said Hillerich & Bradsby Co. officials sent him a full-speed-ahead email regarding Wilson Sporting Goods Co. and its $70 million Louisville Slugger acquisition agreement announced Monday.

“The email said, ‘Please reassure Mark that this is a great thing,’” Cunningham said in reference to project developer Mark Petersen, “because Wilson is excited about the potential of the new sports complex.

“Besides the Louisville Slugger partnership, now we have one of the premier sporting-goods companies in the country working hand-in-hand with Louisville Slugger and us.”

The Louisville Slugger Sports Complex is scheduled to play host June 5-7 to its first event, a girls fast-pitch softball tournament. At least 10 youth baseball and softball events have been scheduled for June and July, according to the facility website.

Concrete footings for dugouts at the 10-diamond complex are being constructed, Cunningham said. Storm sewers and other underground aspects were installed over the winter. 

Wilson, owned by a Finnish sports-equipment maker, is to market and sell Louisville Slugger equipment, according to deal details The Associated Press reported. Louisville Slugger wooden bats still are to be manufactured at the Hillerich & Bradsby factory in Louisville, Ky.

H&B stockholders have to approve the deal. It might affect what the Peoria sports complex will sell in its merchandise store, according to Cunningham.

“We just ironed out all the details,” he said. “Now, before the ink’s dry, we’ve got to figure out what role Wilson will have in the retail.”

That’s to be known by May 1, Cunningham said. The in-complex store might stock Wilson items Louisville Slugger doesn’t manufacture, such as baseballs and softballs. 

“I’m excited about it,” Cunningham said. “It kind of quadruples the potential we have for what we sell at events. The partnership, in essence, makes it that much more financially secure.” 

The $36 million complex is to include a Holiday Inn hotel. The merchandise area and an inflatable dome for indoor sports events are to open in late August or early September, according to Cunningham.

Source: Journal Star, Peoria, IL, http://www.pjstar.com/article/20150323/NEWS/150329694/11130/SPORTS