Recognizing a Void in the Sports Facility Market
David Hocheiser, father of three young children, did what many parents do. He registered his kids for team sports outside of school. He wanted his children to experience all of the benefits that team sports provide – fitness, skills development and camaraderie. But he was disappointed in the limited options available, particularly during the winter months, in his locale.
The lack of indoor sports facilities in 2013 greatly restricted his choices and those of other parents in the area. There simply weren’t enough indoor facilities for the large, growing youth population in Central New Jersey and throughout the country.
The few structures that existed were undersized, unclean and unappealing to the parents and siblings who often accompanied the young athletes to their practices and games. A void clearly existed in the sports facility industry. The situation presented an opportunity to create one.
Hence, the advent of Sportika!
An Idea Is Born
Hocheiser developed a plan to create the largest, all-encompassing sports and entertainment edifice in the Tri-State area. He began speaking and meeting with a focus group of parents who recognized the problem and liked Hocheiser’s solution.
Sportika would be a home, where athletes, young and old, could practice and compete year-round, and where families would enjoy spending time.
“I came up with the idea for Sportika out of my frustration with sub-par sports facilities,” said Hocheiser. “I saw an opportunity in the market for a large, indoor sports complex. Most existing sports complexes in the area were mom-and-pop type businesses with facilities that were over-utilized and under-equipped. I believed demand existed in the market for a facility with superior amenities.”
Knowing that land ownership in the geographical region of interest was not easy, Hocheiser pursued every available parcel that was for sale.
With painstaking effort, he finally found a perfect location. It included 22 acres of vacant land on Woodward Road, just off the intersection with Route 33 in Manalapan Township, NJ.
Manalapan’s population density was estimated at 1,270 people per square mile compared with the U.S. national population density of 84 people per square mile, according to 2010 Census reports. The population and household income demographics within a 10-mile radius exceeded his expectations and made the location even more appealing.
Assembling an Expert Team
Hocheiser partnered with Robert Fegan, a seasoned, business-savvy executive, who helped him develop a business strategy for his project. Hocheiser and Fegan formed Fields of Dreams, LLC in November 2013 and acquired the 22 acres of land in Manalapan, NJ as future site for building Sportika.
Hocheiser and Fegan recognized that in order to make the project successful, they would need to build a business prior to the project being completed. In 2014, they opened a temporary location they called “Mini-Sportika” in Howell, New Jersey as the prelude to the much larger facility to be built in Manalapan. This proof-of-concept facility and business soon generated over 40 teams of players in various sports and utilized 25,000 square feet of space.
Hocheiser and Fegan assembled a team of experts with experience in managing sports programs. Their first acquisition was acquiring Stephen Langan’s successful baseball academy along with its six baseball teams. In addition, they hired Langan as Director of Sports Operations.
Their next move was to acquire a successful soccer program, which they did by signing Wayne Price’s successful soccer academy. Wayne was also signed to become their Director of Soccer.
Lastly, they acquired Dave Wheeler’s successful softball academy and appointed Wheeler as Sportika’s Program Director for Softball.
Both owners recognized a need to understand sports complexes and sports marketing. They hired one of the nation’s preeminent sports and marketing consultants, David Strumeier, to further enhance Sportika’s business plans and innovative facility design.
Strumeier’s extensive industry background and relentless attention to detail would help Sportika become a one-of-kind youth sports facility that would come to be known as “The Ultimate Sports Experience.”
Finally, a monumental change occurred when Hocheiser and Fegan joined forces with successful businessman, Rosario DiMinni. DiMinni’s influence within the business community and his vision for Sportika to become a national phenomenon helped Sportika attract private investors to join their Fields of Dreams team and achieve even greater new heights.
Working with local architect Michael V. Testa, and local engineer, John Ploskonka, the Fields of Dreams team began fleshing out the details for the Sportika complex.
The facility would be two stories and would encompass almost 170,000 square feet. It would include the following amenities:
• FIFA-regulation soccer field usable for other sports (lacrosse, football, etc)
• Turf areas for baseball training
• Up to 7 basketball courts usable for other sports (volleyball, field hockey, etc)
• 4 rooms usable for birthday parties, aerobics, yoga, corporate meetings, etc
• 3,000 sq. ft. TV lounge area
• State-of-the-art children’s gaming arcade
• 1 outdoor turf field
• Academic Center for tutoring, college prep, SAT, ACT prep, etc.
• Over 3,000 sq. ft. dedicated to personal training
Soccer, baseball and basketball would be the core sports with programs at both competitive and recreational skill levels. Other sports would be introduced over time to fully utilize the facilities including lacrosse, field hockey, futsal, volleyball and even pickleball.
The facility would host youth league games for the three core sports in addition to renting space for each team sport. Individual and team coaching/training sessions would also be offered.
The secondary target would be adult leagues, which could use the facility during daytime and late night hours when young people wouldn’t be present. Sportika is currently developing programs for toddlers as well as special needs programming.
The Search for Funding
Hocheiser, Fegan, and DiMinni worked together to build the business. But, for the Sportika facility to become a reality, they needed a banking partner.
They were introduced to AVANA Capital, a finance firm headquartered in Glendale, Arizona, with $350MM to fund these types of community-based projects. Once AVANA underwrote the full amount, the project was submitted to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for approval as an SBA 504 loan.
Since its founding in 2002, AVANA Capital has funded more than $850 million in loans, which in turn has led to over 9,000 jobs created and saved in 30 states under the United States Small Business Administration Lending Programs.
“AVANA understood our business model from inception,” Hocheiser said. “They instantly realized what we were trying to accomplish and could see how our organization was filling a void in the market. They recognized that our project would touch thousands of families in a positive way and add jobs to the community.”
Enter AVANA Capital
“We did our due diligence,” explained Payal Bhatia, the loan underwriter for AVANA Capital. “Our research confirmed what the Sportika team told us. An upscale indoor sports complex in Manalapan, NJ would meet many needs, particularly for youth.”
AVANA Capital funded Sportika with an $11.5MM loan to the Field of Dreams group. “The project had all the right elements. The land they’d purchased was in a great area. The population of the city was upper middle class and able to afford private facilities. The large number of high school students and children combined with the lack of space for holding sporting events locally pointed to unsatisfied demand,” Bhatia said.
She added that AVANA Capital also took note of how Mini-Sportika had already outgrown its rented space. “We liked that they were currently operating out of a small facility, and the business had grown quickly in just one year,” she said.
Groundbreaking for Sportika
The Sportika team broke ground in March 2016. Construction of the 170,000 square foot facility is expected to take approximately ten months: five months to build the foundation and five months to build the interior.
With Eric Gatti and G William Group LLC managing all aspects of the construction phase, the project is currently on track to be completed by late December 2016.
A Model for the Future
“We had a dream and a concept, and with the help of AVANA Capital, made them a reality,” said David Hocheiser, Sportika founder.
“This facility will strengthen our community. We want to provide recreational and advanced athletic training. We want families to see Sportika as a culturally safe environment where young people can develop a healthy, active lifestyle and gain skills for success on and off the field. We want to inspire athletes of all ages and ability levels to reach their full potential.”
In addition to the jobs created during construction, Sportika currently employs 12 people and will employ 75 staff members when complete.
“Sportika New Jersey is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” stated Hocheiser. It is the first of what he and his team believe will eventually become a national success story that includes 50 franchises across the United States.
AVANA Capital supports the dream of building more Sportikas. “We’re excited to be involved at the ground floor of this exciting endeavor, which we believe has great and far-reaching potential,” said Sanat Patel, Co-founder and CSO of AVANA Capital.
“We provide small-business owners like Fields of Dreams with the capital they need to take their companies to the next level. We help facilitate funding through government-guaranteed programs and institutional partners. Our flexibility as a non-bank lender allows us to work with entrepreneurs across the country and fund promising new ventures like Sportika that can grow the economy and generate jobs.”
About AVANA Capital
AVANA Capital is a nationwide commercial real estate lender specializing in SBA, construction, and bridge financing for businesses in niche industries. AVANA Capital’s goal has always been to promote job growth and retention by lending to small and medium-sized companies.
AVANA Capital’s lending team brings more than 65 years of combined credit experience in small business loans with real estate. They are experts in debt instruments, credit analysis, fixed-income investing, and mortgage portfolio management. Since its founding in 2002, the company has funded more than $850 million in loans, which in turn has resulted in 9,000 jobs created and saved across the country. For more information visit www.avanacapital.com.