WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — A new facility is hoping to increase year-round entertainment and recreation in the North Country.

The Town of Watertown has moved forward with its proposed Thousand Islands Event Center. This 520,000-square-foot multi-use facility is set to be built on Route 3 on the Watertown and Hounsfield town lines. The land was acquired by the Thousand Islands LDC.

According to Town of Watertown Supervisor Joel Bartlett, the goal of the Event Center is to create a four-season venue.

“The sidewalks usually roll up after labor day here and there’s not much going on,” Barlett expressed. “This provides us with over 520,000 feet of space for concerts, sporting events and activities, and it gives kids a place to go.”

The facility is set to include two turf fields, eight basketball/ 16 volleyball courts, a track, two NHL ice sheets, wrestling stations, pitching and batting cages, a gymnastics and dance areas. It will also be able to host over nine thousand people for concerts, shows, sports competitions and special events.

The project’s budget is $85 million, with funding from private investors, New York State and taxable bonds.

The top investor is former Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike Sherman’s Company, Mike Sherman Sports. Sherman visited the North Country on March 9 with MS2’s president Bill Collett to meet with community members.

MS2 invests in facilities like the Thousand Islands Event Center to increase athletic and recreational opportunities in “second-market” areas. Sherman said MS2 invested in Watertown due to its proximity to the Thousand Islands Region.

“It’s a great opportunity up here, in the Northern Region,” Sherman said in an interview. “We look for secondary markets to be able to bring people to the area. But only in secondary markets that have a destination, which we have here.”

Collett added that they hope to give something new to the North Country community.

“When we go into a community, we don’t go in to cannibalize, that’s the last thing we want to do,” Collet explained. “We want to be an add-on. We want to be a value-add to the team, so to speak. We feel really comfortable that we can do that in Watertown.”

As the Thousand Islands Event Center will suit almost every attraction, David Machlica, an advisor for the project with Venue Strategies New York, also said that it will be well worth the dollar signs.

“You’re talking 250 events a year that don’t already exist. So that’s accretive to the community,” Machlica said. “Tennants about 250,000 or more, coming to the community to do a variety of things and approximately a third of those will want to stay overnight. In ten years, it’s pushing over $280 million in benefits.”

The project opening date for the Thousand Islands Event Center is September 2024.