From batting cages to golf simulators to pickleball, plans filed for indoor sports, entertainment facility

photo by: Adobe Stock

A golf ball is shown as part of a golf simulator area in this stock photo.

I’m one of those guys who bring their golf swing to the softball diamond and their softball swing to the golf course. Soon, though, I may be out of excuses.

Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall to convert a part of a former grocery store building into a new type of indoor sports and entertainment venue. It indeed would have both batting cages and golf simulators under one roof. It also would have a large turf field for soccer and other sports, plus indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, a restaurant, patio and other amenities.

A 15,000-square-foot corner of the former Hy-Vee grocery store at Sixth Street and Monterey Way is proposed to house the new A-Team Sports facility. Lawrence businessman Alan Rector — who currently owns a smaller sports training facility, along with A-Team Custom Construction — will be the owner and operator of the new facility, which he plans to open this summer.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The former Hy-Vee grocery store building at 4000 W. Sixth St. is shown on March 27, 2024. While a church occupies the majority of the building, plans have been filed for a sports/entertainment facility to occupy about 15,000 square feet of the space.

The facility will be open to both youth and adults, which wasn’t always the idea. When Rector first started thinking about the facility, a place for youth athletes was top of mind. It still is, but as he has spent many a day taking his daughters to training facilities in Johnson County, he realized he ought to think bigger.

“They have three-hour practices up there, and I have nothing to do. There’s only so many times I can walk around the Bass Pro Shop,” Rector said of the store that is across the street from one of the popular Johnson County training facilities.

With the A-Team concept, though, Dad or Mom could play a round of golf on one of the simulators, pick up a game of pickleball or simply watch some sports on TV at an on-site restaurant and patio area that also will be served by a bar.

Rector said he plans to devote about 2,500 square feet to the restaurant and beverage area, in addition to a large patio area. He said he’s working to secure an agreement with an established Lawrence restaurant provider to bring food and beverage service to the site.

“It will be more than concession stand food, but probably not as much as Chicken N Pickle,” Rector said, referencing the national chain that operates full-scale bars and restaurants surrounded by pickleball courts in Kansas City and elsewhere.

But the concept will be similar. Rector fully expects the facility will draw customers who have no connection to youth sports. In fact, he is counting on it. He plans to create adult leagues for both golf and baseball/softball. The facility will have simulators for both sports that allow people, or teams of people, to compete against each other.

He also thinks A-Team will do good business in attracting people who just want a unique night on the town by participating in what the industry now calls “interactive entertainment.”

“It is basically healthy entertainment,” he said. “You might have a couple of beers, but you are still being active.”

The simulators and the batting cages — including baseball, fast-pitch softball and slow-pitch softball — will provide some of those opportunities for active entertainment. So too will the craze known as pickleball. Rector plans to have two indoor courts and hopes to get approved by the city for up to four outdoor pickleball courts on the site.

While attracting a crowd of fun-seeking adults is a big part of the business plan, Rector said it can’t overshadow the youth sports component.

“I have to stick to my guns on why I’m doing this, which is youth sports,” Rector said.

He anticipates that youth teams and individual youth athletes will book a lot of time for the various batting cages, pitching lanes and the simulators. In addition, the space will have a large turf field area that can be used for everything from baseball/softball infield practice to soccer to flag football, plus speed and agility training.

Through his existing sports training business, which is named A-Team Sports and is located in a garage-like building in the Lawrence Auto Plaza in south Lawrence, he already works with eight trainers who provide lessons in baseball and softball. Those training services will move over to the new location and will expand to include other sports, including golf.

The golf simulators don’t just allow you to play a round of golf on any number of famous courses. The machines also are high-tech training tools that track your swing path, speed and other factors needed for a good golf swing.

Some of you might be having a hard time picturing how all of this can happen at the former Hy-Vee site. As we’ve reported, Velocity Church purchased the former grocery store building and has converted it into one of the larger worship spaces in Lawrence. However, Velocity hasn’t occupied the entire building.

A-Team would take about 15,000 square feet in the northwest corner of the building. The outdoor pickleball courts and patio would be on the west end of the building.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The west end of the former Hy-Vee grocery store building at 4000 W. Sixth Street is shown on March 27, 2024.

Based on plans filed with the city, there’s still about 8,500 square feet of additional space in the building that is available for other uses. Eventually, Rector said he hopes to be able to expand into that space. He would like to have volleyball and basketball components in the future.

Rector said adding more activities for Lawrence youth is a “passion project” for him. He grew up in East Lawrence and remembers how big of a day it was when Lawrence firefighters installed a basketball goal near their fire station at 19th Street and Haskell Avenue.

“I ended up practically living there,” Rector said of how much time he spent at the makeshift basketball court.

The state of Lawrence’s athletic facilities has advanced since then, but Rector still feels that some offerings in Lawrence are running behind what’s available in Kansas City and Topeka. Plus, he’s always wondered what his youth might have been like if he would have had more access to a greater variety of sports growing up. Now, a kid who comes out to practice baseball or softball might spend some time in the golf area and learn she has a natural golf swing, he said.

“We want to give kids opportunities to try other things,” Rector said. “Growing up in East Lawrence, I can tell you there was no golf in my life until I became an adult and somebody said, ‘let’s give it a try.'”

“I still see the need,” Rector said of additional facilities.


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