Even before Phase 1 construction, SPARC had a galvanizing effect on greater Conneaut. The “buzz” from the community meetings and survey generated excitement and several early donations. The energy around SPARC intensified in 2010 when the Phase 1 bleacher stands were installed and a dedicated web site (www.conneautsparc.com) launched. For many residents in this economically hard-hit town, these were not just amenities, they were validations of SPARC’s promise and Conneaut’s brighter future.
The Phase 1 bleachers had another desired outcome – more spectators for both intermural and interscholastic competitions. Grassroots volunteer fundraising efforts (concessions, raffle tickets, preferred seating) went into full swing, with “word of mouth” communications fanning SPARC’s flames. Another group of volunteers, the Care for Kids Committee, attracted new members and has become the fundraising arm to secure major gifts and grants.
The above are just early indicators of the profound effect a fully-built SPARC will have on greater Conneaut, namely:
- An expanded and balanced school athletic program through Grade 12 with vigorous intermural and interscholastic competitions, upgraded from an uneven program that did not include all major sports.
- SPARC will increase the number of school annual sports users six times (634 students) through expanded programs of current and new sports programs.
- An established, year round recreational program serving greater Conneaut residents from pre-school to senior citizens, upgraded from two seasonal youth only programs.
Conneaut’s Brighter Future
More than half of the Conneaut respondents¹ “Agreed Strongly” or “Agreed” that the new school/community athletic and recreation complex [SPARC] would:
- Help Conneaut attract and retain residents
- Encourage more students to get involved with extra-curricular activities, and
- Provide a much needed “spark” for the revitalization of the greater Conneaut community. In addition, residents were most excited about the ability to host events ranging from sports and festivals through community gatherings.
¹From a 2010 statistically representative telephone survey of Conneaut residents commissioned by the Care for Kids Committee.
- SPARC will offer new programming that will grow from two summer youth programs (~100 participants) to dozens of year-round offerings serving several hundred residents multiple times throughout the year.
- A conservative number of usages for a community this size would be 14,000 annual usages (10% of the 12,000 residents visiting 12 times/year), which is more than a 15-fold increase.
- An attractive 20-acre, centrally located campus hosting school and interscholastic sports competitions and for the first time, concerts, festivals and community gatherings.
- Spectator attendance for interscholastic sports competitions is expected to more than triple to over 8,000 annually.
- New expanded concessions will result in increased sales and net proceeds, which will be used to support SPARC programs and facilities.
- Non-sports events are expected to grow from none currently to an initial few to larger scale concerts, craft/antique shows and festivals when SPARC is complete. Even a modest draw (10,000 attendees/ year) would result in an increase of several hundred thousands of dollars being spent at SPARC and outlying Conneaut businesses annually.
By its very existence, SPARC demonstrates Conneaut’s forward-looking and positive community spirit, undaunted by trying economic conditions. The strength of the emotional bond between residents and their hometown can have real economic benefits. A 2010 study by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation found that cities with high levels of resident attachment also had strong economic growth (GDP) over time despite downward economic trends. For Conneaut, this would translate into retaining current and attracting new businesses and residents.
Conneaut’s SPARC will have wide-ranging and long-term results. Stronger schools, increased community wellness, and economic growth are direct SPARC outcomes. With solid community support and the recent completion of Phase 1, the time is now to drive to the finish for SPARC. By doing so, Conneaut will attain its 21st century vision to be an historic and vibrant lakefront community utilizing its great resources for life-long well-being and opportunity for all.
Conneaut’s SPARC… [will be] so beneficial to our community in promoting health and wellness programs not just for our school age children but the entire community. In a small community like ours it makes me PROUD to be a citizen of Conneaut and experience the community coming together to make this facility possible. It’s not just about “sports,” it’s about a healthy environment for children and adults of all ages. It will live on through our children and grandchildren and leave a legacy for years to come.”Deborah Newcomb