Eyeing a need for more pool space and sports fields, a group of investors headed by Austin High School’s football coach and his wife say they plan to build a $20-million sports complex in Southwest Austin.
The investors closed this week on the purchase of a 69-acre parcel on the south side of U.S. 290, about 3 miles west of the Y in Oak Hill. The project, named Junction Athletic Complex, is expected to open in late 2017.
The Junction will include four full-sized combination football and soccer fields, a 50-meter Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool, a smaller pool for therapy and swim lessons, 12 outdoor beach volleyball courts and an indoor gym with a strength and speed room, physical therapy equipment, 12 volleyball courts and 12 basketball courts.
Principals in the project are Mike Rosenthal, a former Notre Dame University and NFL football player who is now head football coach and athletics coordinator at Austin High School, and his wife Lindsay, a former professional volleyball player who ran the fitness boutique 1379 Sports in Tarrytown for 10 years before it closed in 2015.
Investors expect to sell 700 memberships in the next decade. Customers will be able to purchase an overall membership, or one that allows them access to a specific area, such as the swimming pool or beach volleyball courts.
“We have been to complexes all over the state, and Austin is really behind when it comes to facilities,” Lindsay Rosenthal said.
The group wants to create a place where youth - and adults - can try a variety of sports in one place.
“Part of our frustration with sports in general is kids specializing too young,” Rosenthal said. “We really wanted to make a full sports complex that could accommodate as many sports as possible. I’m a volleyball coach, and sometimes my girls get tired of being in the gym. I want to be able to say, ‘We’re going out on the field today’ or ‘We’re going to the pool instead of being on the court.’”
The parents of four active children, the Rosenthals also want to create a place where kids aren’t coddled by family members.
“Parents get too involved in sports,” she said. “Kids should carry their own bags, get their own water bottles - do things on their own. We hope to set up an environment where parents take a back seat and kids struggle through the sport and learn life lessons.”
Many of the other investors are athletes, too, including former Rice football player Bill Stone and his wife Audrey; former University of Texas swimmer Annie Brown and her husband, former Westlake High School baseball player Hunter Brown; former Vanderbilt University football player Jamie Matthews and his wife Mary Clare, who own the Pond Hockey Club; professional triathlete Neilia Bliss; collegiate soccer and tennis player Jamie Wheal; collegiate lacrosse player Julie Webster; former Texas A&M University basketball player Matt Haralson, Texas State University water skier John Haralson, Kathi Harlson and Meredith Haralson; Peg Treadwell; and Rick and Linda Ditto.
The group purchased the property from Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church.
A 1-mile running trail will loop around the campus, and outdoor exercise equipment will dot the grounds, with space for members to wander away from the whistle-blowing chaos of organized games.
“When we go to a lot of gyms, spectators are crammed into a little space and there’s nowhere for spectators or participants to go when they’re not participating,” Rosenthal said. “This piece of land allows people to have fresh air beyond their sport.”
Because of its size and the number of courts, the facility will host regional, state-wide and national events, including beach volleyball tournaments. Beach volleyball recently became an NCAA sport, and about 50 schools picked it up in the first year. Another 100 are expected to add the sport in coming years.
The complex will also host its own U.S. Masters Swimming program and a triathlon team.
The development is the latest addition in a quickly growing part of the metro area. Ken Beggs, co-owner of the Bobbi Colorado Canine Camp adjacent to the Junction site, said the planned project does raise some concerns about increased traffic in the area.
“Highway 290 West is overrun,” Beggs said. “So putting in a facility that’s going to generate a lot more… it’s going to impact traffic in a negative way.”
Beggs said water use and availability is also an issue, as businesses in the area use well water and septic systems.
“I’m not fighting them, but it is concern,” he said. “A lot of wells go dry out here during drought.”