By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
How SoFo Sports Park is partnering with Forsyth County Schools to provide athletic space for students
Board to vote on property tax abatement for park at next meeting
SoFo Sports Park.jpg
Plan rendering of SoFo Sports Park courtesy of the Forsyth County Board of Education.

The developers of a major sports park planned in south Forsyth are asking the county and school board for help getting the project up and running.

Members of the Forsyth County Board of Education heard a presentation at their work session on Tuesday, Oct. 11, about the SoFo Sports Park, formerly proposed as Winner’s Circle Park, from officials with SoFo Sports Group and the Economic Development Authority.

The estimated $142.8 million park will sit on 62 acres of land in south Forsyth off Peachtree Parkway and Brookwood and Caney roads and will feature nine diamond fields for baseball and softball, a 125,000-square-foot indoor sports center, 21 pickleball courts and a commercial area with two restaurants.

The indoor sports center, which will be operated by Sports Academy, will include eight basketball courts that can be converted for volleyball, a sprint track, athlete lounge, classrooms and office space and much more.

“If this were to come to fruition, there is no question it would benefit athletes throughout Forsyth County,” Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden told the board.

SoFo Sports Group representative Rick Nielsen said it will be especially beneficial for the schools and student athletes.

Nielsen has worked closely with Nathan Turner, Athletics and Activities Coordinator for Forsyth County Schools, to come up with ways for district athletics and the park to partner and help students and families get the most of the park when it is expected to fully open in 2024.

Some of the big ways the developers plan to connect with the community and schools is by creating leagues and clubs across all sports and age groups, setting aside time for open use and rentals for local pickup games and recreational use, granting priority access to high schools to use the park as a backup location for games in case of inclement weather and as a venue for state championships.

“One thing, too, that we really wanted to focus on was the esports,” Nielsen said. “Talking to Mr. Turner and hearing your guys’ success as a county with the schools was really motivating for us. I think we can work together to grow that program for you guys and hold some cool events.”

Right now, they are planning to have a dedicated space in the indoor center for esports that students could use for tournaments or events.

“And Mr. Turner has a lot of great other options, so this list will probably be triple the size when it’s all said and done with us,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen explained that the park will have several revenue streams from club teams and tournaments, court rentals, sports performance training and streaming video subscriptions along with revenue from retail, restaurants and concessions.

Overall, officials expect the park will have more than a $150 million annual economic impact for Forsyth County and will create about 550 full-time jobs on site.

Joe Stein, a member of the Forsyth County Development Authority, told the BOE that the authority supports the project as a way to boost commercial revenues in the county tax base and keep payments down for local residents.

“Everyone has looked at this and really highlighted the fact that this has the potential to be a catalyst project and something that is very unique to the county,” Stein said. “It’s something that we’ve been lacking for a long time.”

But with the size of the project and the current economic times, Stein said SoFo Sports Group is asking for help from the school board and county to help ensure the park’s success in its first few years after opening.

The group has promised to finance $13 million of the $143 million project themselves and plans to receive $30 million from a subordinate lender, but they have asked the Development Authority to issue a county-backed bond for $100 million.

“Now to be very clear on that, that is not the county or the Development Authority putting out any money,” Stein said. “It’s basically a guarantee that, should things go wrong, the county would take over the project, per se, including the additional $43 million investment from other sources, which by itself, would not be a bad deal.”

The group is also asking for a 10-year tax abatement, which would allow the park’s property tax rate to freeze at the current rate while the project is being developed instead of increasing alongside rising property values.

Right now, Stein said the 62 acres the project will be on is now generating $231,000 in tax revenue per year, which the school board receives about 70% of.

“When this project is realized and full, the estimation …. is that this will generate $1.5 million per year in tax revenue for the county,” Stein said. “In addition to that, with $150 million worth of annual direct investment coming here, you can count on about $1.5 million per year coming to the Board of Education through E-SPLOST.

“The benefits, it seems to us, are exceedingly good for the schools as well as for the county itself,” he continued.

To make sure, however, that there is no detriment to the schools or students, the Development Authority asked to have a pilot payment included in the project contract, which would require SoFo Sports Group to make a $230,000 annual payment to the county that will slowly increase over the following 10 years to the full property tax amount.

The Development Authority already voted to grant the group this tax abatement, and Stein recommended that the school board and Forsyth County Board of Commissioners do the same.

“I know for me, I’m not a tax abatement person and I actually voted against the last one,” BOE Chairman Wes McCall said. “However, I think this is an exciting project …. This is going to benefit the community, and it’s going to help SPLOST. For us, we took a big step last year and created a capital improvement plan based solely on SPLOST, so we pay as we go. I think we don’t know what that looks like, but this can only benefit [everyone], so I do support it.”

The board will make a final vote on whether to approve the tax abatement at their next regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Stein said he believes the Board of Commissioners will also vote on it later this month.

For more information, visit the district’s website at