Is sports facility a quixotic quest?

Each time Steve Burton talks about SportsQuest, his plan sounds more ambitious.

It has been his dream for more than seven years to build the Mecca of sports facilities – complete with turf soccer fields, an indoor bicycle track, a 5,000-seat arena, minor league teams, swimming facilities and more – devoted to every level of competition and training.

And as he gets closer to breaking ground on the 250-acre Chesterfield County project, his plan is getting even bolder, with underwater cameras to film swim meets and broadcast them over the Internet, and family entertainment venues.

“People will come to SportsQuest for a tournament, and while they are here, they will have a membership,” he said during a recent interview in the Boulders office park, where he has set up shop inside the offices of Timmons Engineering. “Every night there will be a Bonnie Raitt concert or a chili cook-off.”

His voice rises a few notes and his smile broadens.

“The Frisbee golf association reached out to us, and we can put holes off the playing fields. It will be a pretty fun thing.”

But as Burton’s enthusiasm and concept have grown, so have the project’s price tag and the skepticism of the local business community, which wonders how Burton can pull off a facility that has no real comparable model and that relies on so heavily on financing during a severe recession.

Business owners in similar industries also wonder where he is getting his figures, such as the 10,000 members Burton says SportsQuest already has. (That figure, Burton said, is based on participants at current facilities that might be partners with SportsQuest, such as the two ice skating rinks and RISE, an indoor sports training warehouse adjacent to the future SportsQuest campus.)

Of course, there is no guarantee that athletes at other facilities will join SportsQuest. And, at times, Burton has stretched the truth.

For example, a news release on his website carried this headline: “SportsQuest Gets $15 Million More in Federal Stimulus Funds.”

That’s not quite true. Chesterfield County awarded SportsQuest the right to sell tax-exempt bonds on the open market. They are not government bonds, nor do they carry any government guarantee, according to Chesterfield officials. And they have not been sold.

After an inquiry from BizSense, the headline was changed to: “SportsQuest is allocated another $15 million in Federal Stimulus Bonds.”

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18 Comments on "Is sports facility a quixotic quest?"

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Fantastic coverage


Although I had seen the plans for this project online and had heard rumors about it, this article provides much more information than any other source to date. Thank you!

John Lindner

Ditto. If only the media gave this kind of scrutiny to other development projects in the Richmond area, we wouldn’t be saddled with so many white elephants. Kudos to BizSense for first rate reporting.


What an idea. Never going to get off the ground.


Great article. In thisTown–if he does not have Sportsbackers–he doesnt have a chance. He is making a lot of promises to a lot of people all over town–Tiem will tell

Mike Ogilvie
I love the idea of SportsQuest and have high hopes that it will be very successful. You can definitely count me among the fans! The model is sound and will be a tremendous boon to Chesterfield County and eventually the entire Richmond area. I for one am extremely thankful to Burton for putting the effort and drive behind the project. It takes risk and sweat from people like Steve to make really cool things happen and make the Richmond area and even better place to work and live. The coverage on this story is really in-depth and appreciated, but it… Read more »
Good article. I have met Mr. Burton few times. I am very impressed by his capacity to make things happen from nothing. you have to be ambitious and dreamer to make things happen. he understands that it will be not easy to pull through this project. But I found in him a determined person who has the understanding of financing as well as marketing to produce revenue from various sources. his success of doing this project is the success for entire Richmond metro. I hope your readers provide more innovative ideas to those investors who will take risk to make… Read more »
The Sportsplex complex would provide a venue for many multisport athletes and other non-traditional sporting groups that are not served by present facilities such as the ones mentioned in the article. These non-traditional sports such as triathlon, cycling, etc. are a growing trend in the county and especially among older affluent adults who could afford the membership cost. These older adults can afford country club memberships, but would rather participate in non-traditional sports rather than golf or tennis. Multisport athletes alone could account for thousands of memberships (based on event numbers for local event registration), so I don’t believe Mr.… Read more »
Robert Black

Aaron Kremer mentions three times in this article that an indoor bike racing track (enclosed velodrome) is part of the SportsQuest plan. Not only is this information not available at the Sports Quest web site–but the tour of the future campus shows an outdoor velodrome. Since the difference in price between the two is $15M or more and since this is an article about about the lavish costs and impractical plan of SportsQuest–shouldn’t this fact be checked? What I’d really like to know is–is this new information or wrong information? Thank you.

Steve Cook

With all the other amenities mentioned, I would imagine that the facility will offer some sort of time travel portal that would allow members to visit various and wondrous dimensions. I’m wondering if maybe it might be a good idea to travel about five years into the future now. You know, just to look around and see if ground has been broken by then.

well written and a great piece of journalism….. Say I go to the sales office now, sign up or have signed up, what do I get. As in right now. Do I have access to the land where sportsquest will be? Can I hang out in the office and do push ups on the floor? Can I hunt on the wooded property? Bear, Deer, Moose? Can I brag to my friends that I am a member of a sports facility that doesn’t exsist, that may exsist? Also where is my money being spent? Is it going to the office space,… Read more »
Kate Dunn
I recently attended a gymnastic meet at a facility in Prince George county that included an indoor swimming arena, indoor soccer fields, indoor track stadium, volleyball courts, basketball courts, a cafe and of course the enormous gymnastics venue. The facility appeared to be some type of joint venture between the county and private investment. When we arrived parking attendants directed us to a parking lot based on the event we were attending. Several thousand people attended the gymnastics meet at $10 per head. I imagine there were other people there paying a similar price to attend an indoor track meet… Read more »
Jessee Owens
I believe Mr. Burton has an indoor velodrome in His lavish original campus,(West-side). Their (SportsQuests’ drawings are pretty lavish, and if one max.’s the images, there are #’d and lettered codes of explanation on the Sportsquest web-site. it is an exciting plan. whether it comes to fruition or not remains to be seen. there certainly are a # of Running venues, and fields of Honor. the complex is div. by the State Rte.#588. It is a very impressive and optimistic project for sure. I think I will keep my $$ close+walk on the tax-payor paid + available running track for… Read more »
Laurie Mehler
The entire community is behind this venture and the potential is clear. At this point in time it is about looking at what is working & not working, being humble enough to admit mistakes, having the integrity to learn the lessons from history and move forward. Ideas, thoughts, and talk do not matter if they are not followed up with action that exist in physical space. Proven experts with integrity and passion need to be involved in the business plan. Structured grant platforms and sponsor pricing levels need to be set and available to the public and the individual targeted… Read more »
Steve Burton
First, I want to thank Aaron for spending some time getting to know SportsQuest. Unfortunately, it is difficult to fully comprehend our unique business model in a short interview. As a result, the story inadvertently misled the local business community as to the viability of SportsQuest. Since the SportsQuest campus will be such a tremendous asset for the Greater Richmond area, and since SportsQuest is currently enjoying such tremendous momentum, I feel compelled to clarify potential misunderstanding. In a nutshell, our underlying business model was questioned by raising doubt as to whether youth and adults playing sports in one of… Read more »
Mike D
Mr. Burton continues to mislead the public with his blown-up notions of bringing Olympians to Richmond. He has not fully considered the impact to the region and it’s sad to say that he’s gained access to federal funds (if he can get all his investors lined up) that should be focused on projects which will positively impact our region for years to come. Anyone who knows anything about the construction process knows he will not open anything worth visiting in 2010, albeit he may have a mud-pit of a field available by September. SOOOOWEEEE! What he is effectively creating is… Read more »
David M

Every time Mr Burton speaks he uses the words “member-based business model” Hogwash — The Federal govt put $15 million Stimulus funds into this project. Chesterfield county is putting up $100 Million Bond, in addition to giving him $4.5 million and giving his TAX FREE STATUS. I SMELL PORK BARREL

chip isbell
Folks like Mike D March 23 can only imagine Richmond being the center of the metro region. There is some mud in the back field areas but also many very very nice turf grass fields that are being utilized every evening by both adult and youth leagues. Chesterfieild is coming into its own and projects like this demonstrate that. We are ready and wanting of something of this nature. Why does it always have to be about Richmond? Once completed (if completed, not a die in the wool believer yet) we as Chesterfield residents will have a wonderful facility in… Read more »