When Bill Hardy’s Acrosports gym facility outgrew its original home off Bert Kouns Industrial Loop in the early 2010s, he knew it was time to build for the future, but wasn’t quite sure where to build. During a search that lasted more than a year, Hardy kept returning to a plot of land at the end of a street called American Way. This small pocket of potential was bounded by three of the area’s most vital traffic arteries: Line Avenue, I-49, and 3132. Hardy observed that thousands of potential customers were already circling this property every day as their busy routines took them to and from home, work, school, shopping, and other activities. Today, many of those busy commuters are regularly turning down American Way, and there are more and more incentives for them to stay.
“Our vision was to provide parents with a destination for children playing multiple sports,” says Hardy, explaining the impetus for constructing the 38,000-square foot facility that now houses both the state of the art Acrosports gymnasium and The Fieldhouse, the largest indoor base- ball and softball training facility in the Ark-La-Tex. After purchasing the former Shreveport Olympiad gym in 1998 and rebranding it as Acrosports, Hardy and his wife Lainie built a solid reputation for the business that followed it to its new location. The Fieldhouse, with its 14,000 square feet of indoor turf and multi-purpose practice areas, was an entirely new venture for the couple.
It’s turned out to be a winning combination. From traditional gymnastics lessons and a competitive team to summer sports camps, after school programs, and birthday parties, the facility is bustling with families through- out the week and year round. Acrosports now hosts the Louisiana Cup, an annual invitational gymnastics meet that attracts over 300 athletes, many of them from outside the state. The Fieldhouse’s adaptable practice space has proved attractive to both individual players and teams looking to hone their hitting, pitching, and fielding skills. Hardy’s facility also neutralizes the effects of Louisiana’s oppressive heat, sweltering humidity, and unpredictable precipitation, to the great appreciation of not only the ath- letes but also the grateful parents who inhabit the spacious upstairs viewing mezzanine.
Bill Hardy’s instinct to combine space for multiple sports under one convenient roof was an important catalyst for the ongoing transformation of the land off American Way. Hardy says that it didn’t take long for other investors to approach him with ideas about how to further develop the property as a “one stop shop” sports destination for the Shreveport-Bossier community. He quickly sold off portions to some of these groups who shared his vision of what the area could become. What Hardy had done in one building was about to be replicated for the area as a whole.
In early November 2015, Shreveport Indoor Soccer opened as the second major sports-themed facility on the land, adding “the beautiful game” to the athletic options easily accessible from some of Shreveport’s most-traveled thoroughfares. The impressive facility includes two indoor turf fields that will pass muster with the most serious and seasoned players but will also benefit those just starting out. “Shreveport Indoor Soccer provides an opportunity for kids and adults of all ages and skill levels to play the game they love,” says partner Radi Baltov. “All events will be independent of the weather: no rain, no weather delays or reschedules, no bugs, no lightning — just fun. Also, there will be days when the facility will be used for flag football, volleyball, Bubble Soccer, tournaments, and other sports.”
Shreveport Indoor Soccer also houses a Pro Shop, meeting rooms, concessions area, and even a fitness center — Jason Grantham’s PerformanceFit. Similar to the Acrosports/ Fieldhouse model, the philosophy driving Shreveport Indoor Soccer is one of versatility, flexibility, and continual innovation based on the needs and demands of a customer base that is enthusiastic and rich with growth potential. Baltov notes that he and his three partners knew that the market existed for an outstanding indoor soccer facility, especially after the old Sport Port indoor center was sold and reopened as Air U. “There are more than 4,000 registered soccer players in the Shreveport-Bossier area, including more than 3,000 who are involved with CABOSA/SU, the third largest soccer club in Louisiana,” explains Baltov. “Centenary College has both a men’s and a women’s soccer program, and we hope that LSUS and BPCC will revive their soccer programs in the near future.”
The long-term plan for Shreveport Indoor Soccer is to attract players and teams not only from the Shreveport-Bossier City area, but also from East Texas, Arkansas, and other communities in North Louisiana. Large- scale soccer tournaments could bring in teams from an even wider geographic area, just as the Louisiana Cup Invitational does. And when these out of town and out of state visitors arrive to compete at either facility, they will not encounter an isolated gymnasium or a solitary indoor soccer arena. Instead they will discover an entire area that is beginning to look and feel more like a cohesive sports complex, a facility, Bill Hardy has said, that he hopes will eventually be recognized as the “Shreveport Athletic Center.”
Momentum is building. Another group of investors has purchased a portion of Hardy’s land and has plans to bring a D1 Sports Training franchise to the area. With locations in 19 states, D1 Sports specializes in athletic training and sports medicine services for athletes ranging from “rookie” through professional levels. D1 Sports also offers a Family Program focused on healthy lifestyles and character development. Though still in the early stages, the D1 Sports facility will bring a new dimension to the American Way development that has the potential to benefit all of the athletes who have already made it their home, as well as attract new clientele interested in the unique and specialized services that the franchise provides.
THE NEXT STEP
Hardy still has about five acres of land available from his original purchase, and is searching for the right buyer or investor to complement the existing businesses and complete the vision he has for the Shreveport Athletic Center. The area off American Way has plenty of room to grow and has attracted the attention of other entrepre- neurs, including lifelong Shreveporter Brad Simon. Simon purchased a 10-acre plot of land adjacent to Hardy’s in order to fulfill his dream of bringing a world class indoor shooting facility to his hometown, a dream that he care- fully laid out in his head during two deployments to Iraq. By the time Simon left the Army in February 2011, he had thought through all the details: the design and layout of the facility, the instructional courses to be offered and who would teach them, and the general atmosphere and customer experience that his facility would provide. Once constructed, Simon’s indoor Red River Range will provide both pistol and rifle bays in a safe, climate-controlled environment. One of the pistol bays will be a full tactical range that can accommodate training for military and law enforcement personnel as well as civilians.
Simon’s deep understanding of his potential customer base and of Louisiana’s “Sportsman’s Paradise” culture is guiding Red River Range’s development. Like Bill Hardy several years before, Simon could immediately see the value in the American Way location, but he also performed some targeted market research that produced a solid statistical foundation for his choice. “I learned that the person drives an average of 34 minutes to participate in shooting sports,” explains Simon. “I centered on that part of town due to the fact that the I-49/3132 interchange greatly extended the reach of that 34 minute drive time. The American Way tract just checked off everything on my list: close proximity to the interstate system and the center of Shreveport, but still large and isolated enough for my needs with room for expansion. And it was affordable.”
Space and relative isolation are actually two of the “products” that Red River Range will market to potential customers, and Simon understands that this will be a pow- erful incentive. His market research revealed that there are approximately 60,000 men and women over the age of 18 who identify as hunters in the Ark-La-Tex area. Only a small fraction of those men and women are landowners with enough property to safely practice their sport. Simon is passionate about the importance of gun safety, and sees a role for Red River Range to not only fill the void for gun owners without access to large tracts of land, but also to lead the way in education. “Red River Range will be a serious advocate for responsible gun ownership, gun safety, hunter ethics, and the Second Amendment,” says Simon. “Part of that advocacy means passing those same qualities on to our younger generations. Through youth firearm safety classes and hunter education classes, Red River Range will do just that.”
Simon’s American Way property has been zoned as a public land unit development, or PUD, and some of the requirements for this designation prompted him to think creatively about other aspects of his enterprise. The plans for the entire Red River Range complex now include outdoor archery and fishing parks as well as the indoor shooting range. Simon envisions both a static archery range and a 3D course that can simulate field conditions and challenge serious bow enthusiasts. The planned fishing park will feature a relaxing atmosphere with picnic gazebos, and both outdoor areas contain the potential to attract even more customers for both recreation and instruction. Simon believes that one eventual source of steady visitors could be tourists who come to gamble in Shreveport and Bossier City’s casinos but who might enjoy an alternative source of recreation for a day or two.
Simon’s observation is one that brings things full circle, in a way, validating Bill Hardy’s original vision of some of the area’s primary traffic arteries funneling a steady stream of local sports enthusiasts, tournament participants, or stir-crazy school children down American Way to the Shreveport Athletic Center. Every new development on the property puts its own distinct stamp on that idea, potentially expanding and diversifying the customer base in a way that can only be mutually beneficial. In a few years, all of the American Way investors might be able to tell stories of the families who have come and spent a day (or more!) in the complex – enjoying some playtime in the Acrosports gym, getting in some batting practice at the Fieldhouse and a soccer clinic at Shreveport Indoor Soccer, and rounding it out with archery, fishing, or a gun safety course at Red River Range. And with more land still avail- able, other activities will undoubtedly be part of the mix. For Dr. Marco Ramos, of Shreveport Indoor Soccer, all of this – the choices, the diversity – seems very “American,” and very fitting to be located on a street called American Way. His interpretation is grounded in his personal experience as an immigrant, an experience he shares with his three Shreveport Indoor Soccer partners. “The name ‘American Way’ broadcasts the fact that all four of us are immigrants from all four corners of the world, and that we had a dream that was realized because of the unique opportunities that only America offers.”