Soccer club seeks AirPark land for indoor complex

The Columbus AirPark could become the home of the city’s first indoor sports facility if the city’s aviation board approves a local sports club’s request.

Aviation board members heard a proposal last week from the Columbus Express Soccer Club to develop 4.89 acres in the AirPark along Vickers Drive as an indoor sports complex.

That land is already zoned for that use, according to Brian Payne, Columbus Municipal Airport director.

“We’re behind the times on this,” said Chip Orben, Columbus Express president.

The building would be roughly 20,000 square feet and would be funded privately with no cost to taxpayers, Orben said.

Payne said the exact cost of the project has not been discussed.

Columbus Express would use the building most often during the indoor soccer season, which is from October to April, Orben said. The facility would be open to other sports groups beyond Columbus Express, including IUPUC teams, he added.

Right now, the soccer club plays at the Richard Wigh Soccer Complex, an outdoor facility at 1647 Whitney Court, near the proposed location of the indoor complex.

Player safety would be increased by having the facility because it could serve as a shelter from storms, Orben said.

“Right now I have to tell people to take shelter in their cars,” he said.

While Payne said he thinks the board is open to the idea of the indoor sports facility, board members did not take immediate action.

Instead, the request was sent to SIHO Insurance Services, which houses its corporate conference center and interns in the George Junior Republic building at 1680 Whitney Court, adjacent to the proposed location for the complex. SIHO owns the building but leases the land from the aviation board.

SIHO, which has its headquarters at 417 Washington St., could decide to develop the Vickers Drive plot itself, Payne said, which would put Columbus Express out of the running for the land.

The board is waiting to hear if SIHO is interested in using the parcel for its own purposes before granting the land to Columbus Express.

“If SIHO wants to develop the land, we’ll have to look for another location,” Payne said.

But if SIHO is willing to give up the property, Payne said, he thinks the board likely will be willing to move forward with the project.

Attempts to reach SIHO officials regarding their interest in the Vickers Driver property have been unsuccessful.

What's next

The request for the parcel of land along Vickers Drive is now with SIHO Insurance Services, which has a financial stake in an adjacent property at at 1680 Whitney Ct. If the company agrees to allow Columbus Express Soccer Club to use the land for an indoor sports facility, the board will likely take action on the request at its next meeting, 4 p.m. Oct. 20 at the airport terminal.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.