Xenia complex plans to add $20M indoor sports facility, which could boost its worldwide reach

A plan to build an indoor sports complex named after legendary college basketball coach John Wooden could make Xenia a regional and international destination for athletes, officials said.

Athletes in Action expects to break ground next year on the $20 million Wooden Family Field House, a 100,000-square-foot facility to be located on the Christian organization’s campus in the city’s southeast area.

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After three years of fundraising, $16 million has been raised, and construction can begin with about $2 million more in contributions, according to Dean Bouzeos, AIA director of operations of the existing sports complex and retreat center.

“It will be a place where we could utilize all our sports departments and really maximize the staff that we have in a different way and run our own programs,” Bouzeos said. “Our vision statement which drives us is to see a day where there will be a Christ follower on every team, in every sport, in every nation.”

The center will have dedicated space for a variety of activities, including four basketball courts, batting cages, high-rope climbing walls and an indoor field for soccer, flag football and off-season activities for other sports.

The project began in 2011 when AIA applied for a $2.8 million Clean Ohio grant, which required AIA to pay $2.5 million in matching funds, according to city records.

The grant paid for demolishing several buildings and asbestos remediation where the new facility will be located, said Steve Brodsky, Xenia’s development director.

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“They’ve been a fantastic partner with the city. They’re a major draw. Right now they bring in 100,000 unique visitors to the city each year. Whenever you can draw that many people it’s a good thing,” Brodsky said.

Research indicates the new center will be sustainable by attracting teams and athletes from a three- to four-hour radius around the campus and will triple the number of visitors each year to an estimated 300,000, according to Eric Nelson, AIA sports team division leader.

Nelson said AIA has hosted teams and athletes from other countries who stay at the campus and train. He expects their international reach will increase with the new indoor facility.

“It’s more than a building. It’s a place where people get the right things to be the best version of who they are,” Nelson said. “So much in sports you read about is bad. How do we help the athlete be the total athlete? How do we help them live a purposeful, victorious life beyond the game?”

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Before he died in 2010, Wooden gave written permission for AIA to use his namesake for the new center, Bouzeos said, adding that the entryway will include a tribute to the former UCLA basketball coach.

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