ALTOONA — A new sports facility is coming to Altoona. And its tenants are hoping it can serve as a sporting hub in the state for years to come.
Construction is underway on the A-T Elite Performance Center, a 35,000-square-foot facility being built off Highway 12 near the Slick Up Center in Altoona. It will be the home of four sporting organizations: CrassTrained, Momentum Baseball Academy, ETS Performance Sports and Wisconsin Playmakers Basketball.
The building will have a basketball gym, batting cages and space for strength and speed training, among other accommodations.
The group of business owners getting it started, along with building co-owners Tyler and Amanda Tomesh, have a pedigree in the local sports scene. Jordan Crass, owner of CrassTrained, was an All-American wrestler and grappled for the Wisconsin Badgers. Eau Claire Express manager Dale Varsho and Eau Claire Legion baseball manager Mark Faanes are bringing Momentum Baseball into the mix. ETS Performance has a footprint all over the Midwest, and is co-owned by Ryan Englebert and Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen. Wisconsin Playmakers and owner Kris Becker put together successful AAU basketball teams.
They’re hoping their combined expertise will bring athletes out to the A-T. The owners are expecting it to be open for business in December.
“I’ve been coaching wrestling for the last 11 years in this town, and we’ve expanded to have a few academies in a few different cities, but the one thing that Altoona and Eau Claire really lends to the clientele is the transportation,” Crass said. “(Highways) 93, 94, 53, 29, they all meet right here. So it’s pretty easy to get here from anywhere. ... It’s a very accommodating to have a facility like this in the city. We want it to be a hub.”
The idea for the building is still fairly new — the ball only got rolling around January — and Tyler Tomesh is pleased that construction is already underway. Especially since things really started getting serious around the time COVID-19 came to the United States.
“We got into May, and things got a little nerve-wracking because we had to pull the trigger on ordering steel and we’re in the middle of COVID,” he said. “So I guess it was a little bit of a leap of faith, even knowing that we had the right partners and that they were going to weather this with us.”
Now that things are coming together, the leap of faith was a good one.
“It’s just exciting. It’s something that’s definitely needed in the area, and I can’t wait to get in here and just get going,” Varsho said. “It’s going to look really, really nice. I think people in the Chippewa Valley are really going to enjoy it.”
The owners are hoping the facility will give local athletes a central place to train. They say it should have something for just about everyone.
And the timing of its planned opening coincides with the usual beginning of the winter sports season. They want to offer some sense of normalcy to athletes, particularly those high school and college-aged, who may have missed that this fall.
“Going into the fall, we’re finding that kids are really starving for seeing their teammates, or seeing friends from other communities,” Tomesh said. “So the timing for everything is going to work out great, because people are yearning for that return to normalcy.”
And with a variety of sports programs calling the facility home, Crass thinks it can be a one-stop-shop of sorts.
“I think it makes it user-friendly for our clientele. I’ve got all sorts of clients that wrestle, and also play baseball and strength train,” he said. “And here, they pull up and drop their kids off, and they’re in a town where they can grocery shop and that kind of thing if they’re not from here. ... It’s a brother, sister, family type of an environment where more than one horse gets fed at the stable. So bring all your horses, and we’ll feed them all if we can.”
In addition to offering a more modern environment for the tenants, it’s going to be more spacious too. That can be helpful, particularly for a sport like baseball, where it can be tough to find a place to throw long toss or field ground balls indoors.
And at the end of the day, Varsho said, any way the programs are able to improve is only going to help the athletes improve as a result.
“Anything that we can do to enhance the opportunity for them to get better at the high school level or the college level is what we’re all in it for,” he said.