WHEATFIELD — Neal Turvey wants to give Niagara County kids a place to hang out that also keeps them active, and that's the goal he's hoping to accomplish at Niagara International Sports and Entertainment.
The first parts of the NISE campus opened within the last couple of months inside the old Sears store on the north side of the former Summit Park Mall. Inside are a couple of gyms, which have been open for about a month, and batting cages, which have been open for about nine weeks.
Currently available are seven batting cages, four pitching lanes, two HitTrax systems and a Rapsodo system, in addition to two gyms that can be used for volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball, hockey and rollerskating. The facilities are available for use by area kids, as well as sports teams of all age groups.
But Turvey said the baseball equipment and gyms are just the beginning.
"We have a pro shop going in, we have a trampoline park going in, we have electric bumper cars, electric go-carts, there's black light mini-golf going in and Bazooka Ball going in at the other end," said Turvey, director of athletics and events for the NISE. "That's like the Nerf balls with electric censors in them."
He later noted that they're also working to install a small arcade, a health club and a number of eateries.
Turvey said the business has a three-phase construction plan, but for now he's focused on phase one, which includes the batting cages, the gyms and will eventually include a pair of field houses that will be used for tournaments.
Once the field houses are constructed, work will begin on additional amenities, like the planned Big Thunder Brewing Co. in the old Save-A-Lot space, the following spring. He also said the field houses need to be finished first to attract the foot traffic that would be required to make additional businesses, such as a coffee shop, a deli, a pizza restaurant or the brewery, successful.
The space is also outfitted to accommodate birthday parties, conferences and other events, and features a play room to keep smaller children busy while their older siblings are utilizing other parts of the facility.
Already, there are a number of local organizations who have their practices at NISE, including the Niagara Junior Thunderwolves, the Niagara Junior Power, the Grand Island Rapids and more. Turvey said it's not uncommon for them to have a couple hundred kids at the facility on a single night.
"We're packed already," Turvey said. "The kids are in here every night. We have days where we see as many as 250 kids in an evening."
The project's history goes back to 2014, when Canadian developer Zoran Cocov purchased the mall. Several years later, a sporting complex was pitched for the space, but it spent a number of years in limbo as Wheatfield officials weighed site plans, hosted public hearings and fielded concerns from residents.
Parents, he said, are happy to finally have a facility like this in Niagara County, adding that before, young athletes would likely have to drive to Erie County to find a similar venue. He said parents have expressed excitement over the facilities that are already complete, but when they see what's yet to come, he thinks they'll be even more excited.
"Niagara County really needed something like this for the kids," he said. "The kids from Niagara County tend to have to go to Erie County or hit the Southtowns to get into a facility where the kids can come and play and work out and train. They're excited about this part of it, and this is nothing yet. When the rest of it gets going, they're going to be blown away."
NISE operates on a membership basis, with memberships included unlimited access to all facilities. Currently, NISE is offering one-year, six-month and three-month plans for $425, $325 and $275 respectively. For a limited time, they're also offering a one-month membership for $175.
For more information, find Niagara International Sports and Entertainment online at www.niseevents.com.