By Natalie Simms
It was four years ago, May 2014, when the first baseball games were played at LakePoint Sporting Community in Emerson with high hopes of becoming “the premiere vacation destination for traveling athletes and their families.” But slow movement on the ambitious master plan for the 1,300-acre campus now brings some changes in ownership and a new direction for the development.
California hedge fund manager and investment advisor Rimrock Capital Management has taken control of the project and is working with GlassRatner, an Atlanta-based advisory firm experienced in destination resorts, finance, real estate and construction, to set up a “go-forward” plan for LakePoint.
“Our vision is much the same as the founders: For LakePoint to be the premiere vacation destination for traveling athletes and their families,” says Dan Berman, senior managing director with GlassRatner.
“Rimrock is updating the master plan to bring the vision into clear focus, especially around our expansion plans for the North Campus. Our goal is to preserve and improve upon the investment already made in state-of-the-art facilities and to grow LakePoint to its full potential. Nothing will visibly change as we do this – the team on the ground will remain, the games will go on and we will continue to grow . . .”
Rimrock is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission with over $4 billion of assets under management. The majority of Rimrock’s assets are from institutional investors, including pension funds and endowments. According to Berman, LakePoint assets transferred to Rimrock in late 2016 and they’ve been working “at doing the things that will set LakePoint up for sustained, long-term success.
“We’re funding operations, making additional investments and evaluating new initiatives to enhance the overall offerings on both the North and South campuses. We believe our involvement further strengthens LakePoint and gives it a strong financial foundation,” says Berman.
With much of the south campus filled (Perfect Game’s baseball fields, Terminus Wake Park, Rally volleyball complex, massive indoor center, recreation center and a series of restaurants and hotels).
One of the big question marks remains the Bass Pro Shops site, one of the original anchors of LakePoint. With Cabela’s just a few exits away, the giant outdoor retailer could take another approach — including accommodations as has been done in other regions. Bass Pro and Cabela’s wrapped up their $4 billion merger last fall.
What’s ahead in future development?
For now, the next area of growth is focused on the 600-acre north campus.
“The road and bridge construction to North Campus is well under way. Giant dozers, scrapers and trucks are working around the clock,” says Berman. “This significant project will extend Lakepoint Parkway from Allatoona Road to Red Top Mountain Road and will serve as a catalyst for more development. We expect to see construction for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019.”
“Growth at LakePoint translates into full-time and part-time jobs, hotel nights, meals at restaurants and people coming to our region to enjoy a family vacation. We’re looking to the future to achieve our vision of creating the ultimate ‘stay and play’ destination at LakePoint,” says Berman.
To that end, Rimrock has engaged national experts in real estate/master planning and sports marketing, including Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate company with previous ties to Rome’s Mount Berry Mall.
“We are refining our master plan with demand studies and enhancing our marketing strategies vis-a-vis our sponsors, tournament operators and guests,” says Berman. “This is all in keeping with our goal of elevating LakePoint in all respects. And consistent with our institutional mindset of growing LakePoint in a thoughtful way, through in-depth analysis and success-based investing.”
The original master plan for the north campus included more baseball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, golf course and more. That plan currently is being reworked. That plan included an Atlanta Braves clubhouse store and additional baseball-related amenities.
“We are making $10 million of investment at LakePoint. This shows how we’re committed to this project and have the capital and talent to make it succeed,” says Berman.
Rimrock is tight-lipped about what new development we could see short-term.
“We’re on a path to continue growing the events and tournaments we book here. With more than a million visitors per year, LakePoint contributes nearly $100 million in annual economic impact to Bartow County and the surrounding region. Hotel revenues in Bartow County alone have almost doubled in the past few years with LakePoint being a significant contributing factor,” says Berman.
“This past year, we hosted three major grass roots basketball tournaments – Adidas, Under Armour and Nike – with some of the best high school players in the nation. Our bookings are strong in 2018 as we already have booked 47 out of 52 weekends and we’re still booking. LakePoint is positioned to grow 10 percent in terms of bookings in the next year and we’re proud of that.”
Bartow County officials also are glad to see those big numbers as well as the prospect of continued development at LakePoint.
“LakePoint is moving forward. They have new management and reorganized, but they are going to keep moving forward,” says Steve Taylor, Bartow County Commissioner. “I’ve met with Rimrock officials on several occasions and they plan to keep moving ahead.
“Perfect Game continues to book tournaments that are good for Bartow County. We are seeing lots of positive economic activity and it is still growing. We expect more visitors this year than ever. In the summer in Bartow, you can hardly find a hotel room and the restaurants are packed. The economic impact is real and its big for Bartow County.”
Adds Taylor: “The development itself started slower than expected, but with big projects of this scope, they take six to 10 years. We hate it for the original investors but we’re happy with the way it’s progressing forward. You will not be able to tell any difference to the community between the new owners,” he says.
“Rimrock is committed to the master plan, which is good for Bartow County and the whole Northwest Georgia region.”