A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house were held at the Alachua County Sports & Event Center at Celebration Pointe on Saturday.
The ribbon cutting speakers included Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, Alachua County Commission Chair Anna Prizzia, State Rep. Chuck Clemons, State Sen. Keith Perry, Viking Companies Principal Owner Svein Dyrkolbotn and Alachua County Poet Laureate E. Stanley Richardson.
“I think it’s a really amazing facility,” Prizzia said in a phone interview. “It’s primarily to attract out-of-town sports and events and to support our teams and their sports and events. So, I think it’s going to be an amazing regional draw for tourism, which is great for us because when tourists come, they enjoy our parks and our amenities, and they spend their money here.
“It means we can leverage that sales tax to support our citizens that live here in building better parks and facilities and taking care of our roads. So we’re very excited about the facility and its economic impact as well as on the lives of the youth and adults that will be using it for sports.”
The open house included tours of the facility, along with appearances by Gator mascots, Albert and Alberta, and the UF Gator cheerleaders. Sports demonstrations and activities were given for basketball, pickleball, volleyball and the batting cages.
“The completion of this project is a testament to the vision of current and past County Commissions,” Lieberman said in a press release. “This project will generate over $77 million in annual economic activity, over 100,000 hotel room nights, and millions in tax revenues for our community. It will create over 1,000 jobs with annual wages of over $25 million.”
The facility is 144,000 square feet and funding to build the center came from Alachua County’s $30 million in Tourist Development Taxes, which is paid by visitors to the county, $3 million from Viking Companies and $2.32 million from the state of Florida.
“I think we all had a grand vision for what this facility would be and I think that it has lived up to that vision, it’s really impressive,” Prizzia said. “It’s a beautiful facility, it’s well constructed, it has a whole host of different types of sports that I can accommodate from pickleball to basketball to volleyball and track and even cheerleading. It’s really diverse and it has a broad ability to bring all kinds of different sorts of activities to our community.”
A dedication ceremony for the Jimmy Carnes Track inside the Alachua County Sports and Events Center on Jan. 8.
The BOCC is currently interested in hosting the 2025 World Masters Athletics event at the new facility.