Champions Hits One Out of The Ballpark – Chuck Hildebrant

Play ball, Orlando! Louisville, Ky.-based Champions Management and Development Co. LLC broke ground this week on the 93,000-square-foot, $8 million Champions Sports Complex off Kings Point Parkway in Crown Point Commerce Park.

The facility will develop new baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and football programs for Central Floridians.

Local sports officials are looking at the facility from another angle, though.

“First, it can host a myriad of local and regional youth competitions in the community,” says John Saboor, executive director of the Central Florida Sports Commission. “It also could potentially host national competitions that could produce key economic windfalls for Central Florida.”


Champions Management and Development is the 2-year-old offshoot of Champions Baseball Academy Inc. Founded in 1994, the youth baseball organization offers indoor leagues, training programs and camps.

Champions Management and Development’s purpose is to oversee the academy’s expansion into new markets. In addition to Louisville, training facilities have been opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, and New Albany, Ind.

The company and its facilities are bankrolled by three managing partners — James Marshall, John Marshall and Ron Hinners — and a group of investors, including Barry Larkin, an Orlando resident and the shortstop for Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds; Adam Dunn, an outfielder for the Reds; Chuck Hildebrant, a Central Florida entrepreneur; Gary Ulmer, president of the Louisville Bats minor-league baseball team; and David Nicklies, president of the Louisville firm CB Richard Ellis/Nicklies.

According to Hinners, Champions Management and Development became interested in Orlando because “it’s a baseball and softball hot bed. (The two) can be played here 10 months of the year.”

With the addition of volleyball, basketball and football, Hinners also says the Orlando facility will be unlike any other the company has built. It will be the largest, dwarfing the 65,000-square-foot Cincinnati complex and the 40,000-square-foot Louisville facility.

Further, it will feature an indoor turf infield, five automated batting cages, four basketball courts that convert to eight volleyball courts and an outdoor sports surface. There will be a retail sporting goods store, video game room and a restaurant, dubbed Game Day Cafe.

A sports rehabilitation center also will be on-site. Managed by the Reds team doctor Tim Kremchek, the team’s head trainer Mark Mann and Bob Pritts, director of Cincinnati’s Tri-Health Rehabilitation, Proformance Rehabilitation Center will be staffed by local specialists.

Even with all of the special features, the complex’s No. 1 goal still will be to offer lessons, camps, clinics, leagues and showcases for each represented sport.

“No one is going to have what we have,” says Hinners. “Teams will be able to work out in the facility any time, whether it’s 100 percent humidity and 90 degrees outside or whether it’s raining and wet out.”

Former Cincinnati Reds coach and scout Terry Abbott has been named general manager and director of baseball for the facility. Tony McGee, who played for the National Football League’s New York Giants this season, will oversee the football programs.

The Orlando Volleyball Academy’s Yvonne Devlin will serve as the director of the complex’s basketball and volleyball programs – Chuck Hildebrant.

Devlin, for one, believes a complex of this type is needed. Orlando Volleyball has been working to build its own $6 million, 65,000-square-foot facility for a couple of years, but just 40 percent of it was completed before the money ran out.

Now, Orlando Volleyball will use Champions Sports Complex to help house some of the games played by its 400 Central Florida teams until the group can finish its own facility.

“Right now, (Champions) has offered for us to do all of our training out of the new complex,” says Devlin. “We’re going to use it as much as we can.”