Grinders Sports Complex

A rendering of the Grinders sports complex proposed to be built in Florence.

FLORENCE — Grinders Sports takes its name from “the way I play the game, grind it out every day,” Kelly Stinnett, a retired major-league baseball catcher, told the Florence Town Council.

“I may not be the best, but you show up every day, prepare yourself, and get ready to play,” said Stinnett, who played 14 years in the majors, including four with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Stinnett and Lyndon Estill, who played four seasons of minor-league baseball, spoke to the council Monday about their plans for a major sports training and entertainment venue northwest of downtown Florence.

The council Monday gave town staff approval to negotiate a pre-annexation development agreement with Grinders Sports Group LLC. Grinders has also been working with town staff on an annexation petition to bring all of its development into the town limits, Town Manager Brent Billingsley said.

Grinders is planning a 350-acre complex for training future Olympians and pro athletes off North Felix Road. The project includes a “downtown hospitality area” with housing, educational facilities, hotels, restaurants and family entertainment, Estill said. Grinders plans to develop vacant farm land that is both north and south of Magma Ranch, Billingsley said.

Estill told the council it’s a project that’s “near and dear to us as former ballplayers … a large, master-planned, multisports complex.” He said other members of the Grinders executive team include Drew Marino, who has been running sports complexes for many years, and Don Mitchell, who was the Diamondbacks’ scouting director from 1995-99.

Estill said this development “allows us to not only run local events, local tournaments, local games, local leagues, but also player development, and everything is able to happen at the same time. It also gives us the opportunity to hold regional and national events, and bring national traffic and international competition to the site and to the area — for not only the economic impact, but also the exposure,” Estill said.

For young athletes with big dreams, “this is a place where they can come and get world-class training and have the opportunity to utilize all these amenities, develop their skills and pursue their dreams.

“When Kelly and I first met it was a very easy conversation to have; he explained to me that every single child deserves the opportunity regardless of where they came from. And that stuck with me. So building this entire organization, this entire complex, that is on the forefront of every single decision we make,” Estill said.

As for the amount of water the project will require, Estill said every auxiliary field will be artificial turf, so they don’t have to sit idle to let the grass regrow. “Every field is game-ready, practice-ready, event-ready, development-ready every minute of every day.”

Councilmember Michelle Cordes asked why they chose Florence. Estill replied they spent two years looking around the Valley, and the decision came down to the availability of the land and “how under-served the market was.”

Cordes told Estill and Stinnett, “We’re a small town, so big projects like this make people nervous. Everybody wants growth but they’re a little afraid of growth at the same time. I think if the residents understand your passion and the service you want to bring to them and why you want to bring it here, it’s going to really help the citizens feel better about this project. I look forward to seeing some progress on this.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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