By Chris Eversole | North Central Florida Business Report
Hoping to take advantage of thousands of expected sports tourists, land owners near the planned youth baseball park in Newberry are wooing hotel and restaurant companies to build on watermelon fields and other farmland around the complex.
Several Newberry landowners are offering land for development.
Newberry Developer Tripp Norfleet and real estate broker Nick Banks view the proposed Newberry Town Center, which includes a two-acre hotel site.
E.D. Norfleet and Sons, a large land owner with extensive holdings and the builder of about 450 homes in the Newberry area, has created drawings for a 20-acre “town center” that includes a two-acre hotel site. President Tripp Norfleet says he also has more than 100 acres available for later development.
In addition, Davis & Sons Construction, which donated 40 acres to the baseball complex, has land available for development around the site.
And, Joy Glanzer, broker for Prestwick Properties in Newberry, says she represents several landowners, who have land close to the baseball complex. One has a 14-acre mixed-use site, which includes a parcel designated for a hotel, and another has a three-acre site for a shopping plaza. Glanzer says she is optimistic about closing a sale on one of the sites she represents. “I could have an announcement about a hotel soon,” she says.
Along with hotels, companies have approached the city about building a water park as well as a 200-unit RV park on some of the available land, City Manager Keith Ashby says. “We are getting attention from all over the country,” he says.
The two-acre Norfleet hotel site is being offered for $490,000. Listing broker Nick Banks of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group says he based the figure on the selling price of comparable parcels in Waldo and Starke. “We’ve had interest from several hotel chains and developers, but I don’t think people will make offers until they see dirt moving,” Banks says.
Construction of the 16-field Nations Baseball complex, modeled on a highly successful Cooperstown, N.Y., Dream Park, was scheduled to begin before now but was delayed as Newberry city officials brought project costs in line with the $7 million they have available for the project. Funding is coming from a 2 cent per dollar increase in county “bed tax”—money that tourists pay when staying in local hotels and B&Bs. Newberry is scheduled to get half of the increased tax, with the other half going to other county projects.
The lowest bid for the ball park came in $1 million over budget, but the city was able to make changes and get concessions from the contractor to stay within the $7 million, Ashby says.
However, the city still needs an additional $277,000, primarily to provide shaded overhangs for the stands at each field, Ashby says.
“The additions will create the ‘wow’ factor that will keep people coming back year after year,” Newberry Commissioner Joe Hoffman told county commissioners in a request for the additional funds.
Commissioners said they supported the request, but they referred it to the Tourist Development Council for review because the money would have to taken from other possible projects, including a new county fairgrounds and the Cade Museum for Innovation and Invention.
Hotel Plans Not Popular with All
When the county commission considered raising the bed tax last year, many hoteliers were concerned that a higher tax would discourage visitors and lead to construction of a hotel in Newberry that would draw away traffic.
At that time, Lou Presutti, founder of the Cooperstown project and the developer for Nationals Baseball Park, said that he would