GLASSBORO — Rowan University is working with a private developer to create a multimillion-dollar, 300-acre athletic complex two miles from its main campus to house college athletic programs and outside youth tournaments.
The Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution to sign a letter of intent with West Campus Fields, or WCF, for the development on Rowan’s West Campus at the intersection of Routes 55 and 322.
“The board’s vote demonstrates Rowan’s full commitment to the project,” Rowan President Ali A. Houshmand said. “We are confident that WCF will be able to secure what it needs to make this project a great success. We look forward to sharing the specifics as the project progresses.”
Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona said the university has been working with Elite Development Program, or EDP, the lead partner in West Campus Fields, for the past two years to develop the complex, which will include a 4,500-seat arena, an indoor training center, more than 50 athletic fields, artificial turf fields, baseball fields, tennis courts, outdoor track and field venues, a hotel and retail space.
“We liked their proposal and feel as though they’re going to be able to come through with everything they have promised,” Cardona said.
Development of the West Campus has been a long time in the making, as the university began acquiring land in the area in the early 2000s.
“The idea has always been to get better athletic facilities so that we can utilize the current space on campus, where those athletic facilities are, for academic space,” Cardona said of the 200-acre main campus.
Several years ago, a proposal for a Major League Soccer stadium there fell through because of lack of funding.
“At the end of the day there needed to be more funding,” Cardona said. “Certainly today it’s much different.”
Since 2002, Rowan University has acquired 600 acres at the site, bisected evenly by Route 322. In 2008, Rowan opened the South Jersey Technology Park on the north side. The university sold about 100 acres south of Route 322 to Inspira Health Network last year to build a regional hospital, which is under construction.
The new athletic facilities are expected to draw 1.5 million visitors per year.
“We are excited to be working with Rowan University and our development partners to build what we believe will be the best youth sports venue in the United States,” said Steve Shilling, president of EDP.
Cardona said the project will likely cost the developer hundreds of millions of dollars. The developer will enter into a long-term lease with Rowan and the university will pay for operational costs associated with using the facilities for sports games, events and practices. At times when the college does not need the facilities, EDP will be able to use them or rent them out to other organizations.
“That’s the problem with collegiate facilities, is the down time that colleges aren’t using them,” he said.
As far as access to the facilities, Cardona noted the campus already has shuttles, but a transportation plan has not yet been worked out. He said the developer wants to break ground as soon as possible, and the project is likely to open in phases.
“We are obviously confident in the project, but there is still some planning to be worked out. We expect by late spring to early summer that we’ll be able to have a final project,” Cardona said.