Ryan Stonemetz is going all in on Granger.
The Lower Valley businessman and high school wrestling coach is betting that the city’s geography and a close-knit youth sports community will combine to create a solid return on his recent investment, a long-vacant property off Bailey Avenue known as the Granger sheep sheds.
Stonemetz purchased the 18.34-acre property — mostly unoccupied for the past 50 years — in early June with visions of establishing a destination for young athletes from Yakima to the Tri-Cities and beyond.
Plans for the $3.5 million Spartan Sports Complex include 12 outdoor soccer fields, six indoor soccer fields, eight batting cages, a rodeo arena, a wrestling training center and four special event halls.
There will be a paved parking lot for 350 cars, 150 mini-storage units, as well as a warehouse that can house around 200 RVs and 150 boats. Eventually, he plans to offer semi-truck storage and a 74-unit RV park.
If the project sounds like a big deal for a city of 3,880 residents, that’s because it is.
“My goal with this project is to give back to the people of this community, and maybe even help change the town,” said Stonemetz, a 2000 Zillah High School graduate who wrestled and coached at Portland State University before joining his family’s farming business, ProFarm, in 2010.
“I know a lot of people who would like to see a McDonald’s or a Subway come in here, but right now there’s not much of a need,” he added. “A complex like this might give those national chains a reason to consider Granger.”
Stonemetz, 36, knows the transformation of the sheep sheds property, accessible off E Avenue, isn’t going to happen overnight.
But with any luck, he will have two indoor soccer fields and four quinceañera halls in use by this time next year.
One of two 4,000-square-foot event barns already has hosted some large gatherings this summer.
Seeding of the 12 regulation-size grass fields is expected to take place over the next year, meaning games could be played there as soon as the fall of 2018.
Stonemetz has divided the property into 14 commercial lots and he is beginning to scout corporate sponsors, a process he expects could take at least five years.
“It all depends on how fast we can sell the lots,” he said. “I’ve been talking to people for months, but I don’t want to rush things. We want to attract the kinds of partnerships that will help this place reach its potential. We’re looking for a long-term investment in the community.”
How It Happened
Stonemetz has known for a while that he would like to scale back his role in agriculture. He began to take a closer look at his future plans late last year after he experienced some health problems related to work.
He wasn’t sure if he wanted to commit the time or investment capital it would require to stay in the business for 30 more years, so he started looking at Plan B.
Stonemetz’s passion for wrestling and mentorship got him thinking about how he could influence the lives of more youths in the community. He started thinking of ways he could give back, and that is what led him — albeit, indirectly — to the sheep sheds, an old rail depot for animal transport from the 1900s to 1950s. (Soil Conditioners used the site from 2000 to 2015, but otherwise it has sat vacant since the 1960s.)
The vision for the Spartan Sports Complex began to materialize last February, when the asking price for the sheep sheds property suddenly became a little more attractive.
Stonemetz consulted with city planners and an architect before making an offer to former owner Tim Martin for the property, which features five barns of varying sizes, a century-old rodeo arena and acres of open space.
The two easily reached an agreement in early June, and Stonemetz began work right away on the property, visible off Bailey Avenue and Interstate 82.
Stonemetz’s crews tore down an old livestock barn, but left the steel pens and a 60,000-square-foot competition arena.
“We’ve already done a lot of work here, but there’s a lot more to come in the next year,” Stonemetz said. “We’ve been talking about it for so long that it’s nice to see things get moving forward. Right now it’s hard to see what the vision is, but it won’t be long before you notice things starting to change.”
Phase 1 of the project was to get the property in working order. Getting two of the quinceañera halls up and running this summer was a big step, and Stonemetz continues to work with potential sponsors for the 14 commercial lots.
Most of all, Stonemetz wants to make the Spartan Sports Complex affordable and accessible.
“SOZO (Sports Complex in Yakima) is great, but it costs a lot to maintain,” he said. “Plus, it’s still pretty far away for people in the Tri-Cities or Sunnyside. This place will be right in the center of the Valley and it will be supported by a variety of business partners. I have no doubt that it’s going to see a lot of use.”
Catering To All Sports
Due to soccer’s increasing popularity among all ages, the indoor and outdoor fields will be the early centerpiece of the Spartan Sports Complex.
The event halls will continue to host wedding receptions and quinceañera gatherings, while the RV and boat storage warehouse is already accepting reservations.
Rodeo events will also be up and running by next year, with a 3,000-person grandstand set to be installed in the coming months.
The eight batting cages and four remaining indoor soccer fields will follow, along with restroom facilities and a paved parking lot.
But what Stonemetz is most looking forward to is creating an elite wrestling training facility in one of the sheds.
The former high school state champion and Division I standout has coached at Highland High School since 2011. He also helps train wrestlers in the talent-rich Lower Valley, many of whom — like two-time state champion Frankie Almaguer — hail from Granger High.
“You can’t do just soccer and rodeo,” Stonemetz said. “You have to provide something people can’t find anywhere else. Wrestling is big all over Eastern Washington and Oregon, and I know we can build an elite training center here that people will drive to. I want to make this a place where future Olympians train.”
In fact, Granger’s central location has been integral to Stonemetz’s plans for the sports complex since the start.
“We’re three hours from Seattle, three hours from Portland and just a little farther than that from Spokane and Idaho,” he said. “People could cut down on their travel time and meet in the middle of the state. It’s good for teams from all over, and it’s also good for Granger.”