Every so often a child’s play can be an indicator of what lies ahead for his career. As a kid Jim Arnold would draw soccer complexes – when he wasn’t our on the field playing the sport he loved. And these weren’t the blocky, stick-figure-esque creations of the typical kid. These drawings included field layouts with adjacent lakes and buildings. It’s this passion and attention to detail that would later become the hallmark of Jim’s work in the sports facility industry and what he brings to his role as National Director of Business Development at the Sports Facilities (SF) Companies.
Jim began his sports facility career at Ripken Baseball and Ripken Design where he helped develop the business plan that was the basis for company’s national expansion as well as planned and designed several of their venues. During his 11 years at Ripken, Arnold guided the development of facilities in Baltimore (MD), Myrtle Beach (SC), and Pigeon Forge (TN).
While at Ripken, Arnold began to identify service gaps and forthcoming opportunities in the industry. “Baseball was always a tournament-style sport, but other sports like soccer were starting to run weekend tournaments. I felt that this model could be expanded for other sports as well,” said Arnold. “While the rules and event structures are different, players and families were looking for the same types of tournament experiences and high-quality sports destinations.”
To capitalize on the opportunity that he saw in the market, Arnold helped launch Sports Force Parks. The company develops multi-sport youth sports facilities with a focus on the core concepts of sports, family, and fun. Arnold saw that while youth sports venues catered to athletes, they didn’t pay attention to the needs of the athlete’s family. In response to this need, Sports Force started adding elements to venues that catered to non-participating guests, such as mini-golf and other family-oriented amenities. Since 2005, Arnold oversaw the planning, development and operations of venues in Sandusky, OH, Vicksburg, MS, and Naples, FL.
During that time, Arnold crossed paths with the Sports Facilities (SF) Companies often. “Every project that I went after in last six years, seemingly came down to Sports Force and SF Companies. It was a friendly rivalry and both companies had successes. What I learned from this was that there wasn’t necessarily a right or wrong model. It’s all about listening to the customer and creating a model that was custom fit to meet their needs and goals.”
Arnold was not only learning from the experience of competing against SF Companies, he was building a connection. And when he saw another shift in the sport facilities industry, joining SF Companies became a natural choice. He saw that some of the communities that opened new sports facilities were struggling to reach the definition of success. “It’s important to be able to provide real and concise information to cities in order to help them. SF Companies are well positioned to provide that information and provides the best team in the industry to help deliver success to clients.”
As the National Director of Business Development, Arnold will work to drive management relationships across industry. His primary focus is building the SFM Network, including helping communities optimize their current facilities. Arnold will also focus on expanding development projects to help clients during design and construction. This will include creating and nurturing relationships with industry partners, such as architects and engineering firms as well as other facility and event operators.
Arnold plans to use his experiences and passion for this industry to help develop facilities that elevate communities. “I pride myself on being creative and building a model that best serves the client. My role is taking the experience of these models and the projects that we’ve produced in the past and putting them together to present the best product for cities,” said Arnold.
He also hopes to fulfill the SF Companies mission of improving the health and economic vitality of the communities we serve through his work and his perspective on its impact. “We’re not just building complexes. We’re building destinations that positively impact entire communities, create life-long memories, and provide opportunities for kids to learn life lessons, develop friendships and grow into our future leaders.”