Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, February 09, 2023
City officials announced a name for the new NexusPark fieldhouse during a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday.
The 150,000 square-foot fieldhouse will be known as the Circle K Fieldhouse, and the fields inside the space will be named for the late John McCormick, said Columbus Parks Board President Mark Levett.
The groundbreaking featured remarks from leaders involved with the project, a ceremonial wall demolition and work site tours.
NexusPark is a joint effort by the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Health to redevelop the former FairOaks Mall into a health, wellness and recreation center. It is expected to include a fieldhouse, parks department spaces, restaurant and retail areas and CRH facilities. Outdoor community park and gathering spaces are planned, and Dunham’s is expected to remain on-site under its current lease.
“Our city’s legacy contains many public-private partnerships,” said Columbus Director of Administration and Community Development Mary Ferdon. “This is truly one on steroids.”
While contractors have already been at work on the site for about a year now, Ferdon said that organizers felt it was very important to “mark this moment in time in what is a once-in-a-generation community investment.”
Jim Bickel, President and CEO of CRH, said that the project will “transform a languishing mall into a dynamic community asset.”
“Community partnerships and collaboration like this are historically how Columbus and Bartholomew County has accomplished legacy projects and initiatives that transform our community and keep it a thriving place to live, work, play and visit,” said Bickel.
This collaboration included the work of McCormick, who died in July of 2022 and had been part of the NexusPark fundraising team.
Rich Gold, a friend of McCormick who succeeded him as president of the Otter Creek Management Corp. board, described McCormick as a “gardener,” cultivating friendships across a large network of individuals and encouraging those same individuals to contribute to community projects.
Gold, along with Brian Hannasch and Mickey Kim, shared earlier this year that a group of McCormick’s friends decided to honor him by creating the “John McCormick Fields and Scholarship Fund.” Their intent was to have the fieldhouse’s turf field named after him and to create a scholarship that would enable kids who would not otherwise be able to afford to participate in programs at NexusPark to do so.
“This may be named John McCormick’s Fields, but I choose to think of it as John’s garden, where his many friends came to plant seeds of love and affection in his honor,” said Gold. “… And many more whole generations will come to enjoy the enduring harvest.”
In discussing donations to NexusPark, Levett said that the city has received pledges for $4.2 million, and another $1.2 million is “in process.” He also stated that there is $164,000 set aside for scholarships.
Circle K was listed among the project’s major donors. Hannasch, president and CEO of Circle K parent company Couche-Tard, described Columbus as a community that invests itself and makes “big bets.”
“This is just another big bet by a great community,” he said. “And my business is in literally 100 communities that look a lot like Columbus and a lot of distressed properties like this mall. And so I view at this as just a great experiment that hopefully can be a model for other communities that I work in across the United States as we look forward.”
Ferdon said in late January that the Circle K Fieldhouse is expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2023 with a possible soft opening in the first quarter of 2024. City officials hope to book tournaments and other events in advance, with these starting to take place in the second quarter.
Columbus City Council voted on Tuesday to approve the second readings of three ordinances related to NexusPark — an ordinance establishing a non-reverting fund for the fieldhouse, an ordinance appropriating $260,000 into this fund to pay employees and an updated salary ordinance that, among other things, creates new positions for the fieldhouse.
The city hopes to have Columbus Parks and Recreation staff relocated into new offices at NexusPark this same time next year, Ferdon said during the groundbreaking ceremony.
On CRH’s side, spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said in a previous interview that the hospital is on track to begin offering some services at NexusPark by the final quarter of 2023, and the rest will hopefully follow after quickly, within the latter half of 2024. The hospital plans to use the site to provide outpatient services and physician offices.