By Linda Dillman
The Fortress is a sports and entertainment complex that looms large in Obetz on land where race cars once competed.
With a name inspired by an exclamation of power made by a sportscaster and constructed out of shipping containers, the complex is not conventional, but it works in a big way.
According to Steve Adams, the village’s national director of athletic operations and promotions, Obetz’s Memorial Park was home to the pro rugby team Ohio Aviators, which never lost a home game during the 2016 season.
“Halfway through the season the television announcers started calling the field in Memorial Park the fortress,” said Adams. “The name was catchy, and it stuck.”
Mayor Angela Kirk said Obetz Village Council started discussing the Fortress project in 2016 when they were approached by the owners of the Columbus Motor Speedway who wanted to sell their property neighboring the village’s Memorial Park.
“The location was selected because of the existing site of the speedway,” said Kirk. “The location was in proximity to our already existing parks and it was a great addition for our residents. We broke ground in November 2016.”
Facing a tight deadline to get the complex—which includes a turf playing field, parking lots, outbuildings, and an 8,000 seat stadium—ready for play by a professional lacrosse team, Kirk said there are always challenges with new construction, but everything went as planned for most of the project.
“It was built for the residents of Obetz, young and old, to participate in athletic events in a world class venue,” said Adams. “There is nothing like seeing the reactions of the youth of Obetz when they are broadcasted to the large video boards during a sporting event.”
Looking at the imposing steel structure, you would never know that the main structure is comprised of dozens upon dozens of used shipping/cargo containers stacked horizontally and vertically. But once you know, the construction becomes clear.
While container residential structures are becoming more common, it is unusual to build a structure as big as the Fortress out of them and it is one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
The total cost for the entire project was approximately $20 million. Council voted on the name and “because of the architecture of the building, Fortress seemed to fit the look of the facility,” said Kirk. “The Fortress has met expectations in allowing us to offer several opportunities for events that can be enjoyed by our residents. The early hopes of the complex were to offer a venue that would host a multitude of events such as sports, concerts, Zucchini Fest and all types of events for our community.”
The first event held on the grounds was a major league lacrosse game between the Ohio Machine and the Rochester Rattlers on May 6, 2017. The first Zucchini Fest at the Fortress took place in 2017 Aug. 24-27, with Ted Nugent in concert the night of Aug. 26.
According to Kirk, the intent of the multi-purpose facility is to continue to bring events to Obetz that are of interest to residents. High school football games, OHSAA state-level sports competitions, weddings and even the 2020 Hamilton High School graduation ceremony were held on the grounds of the Fortress.
The list of past events also includes Braxton Miller’s Football Camp, the Jeff Greene Speed Academy, marching band competitions, sporting dogs contest, Regional Underclassmen Football Combine, drive-in concert, National Fallen Firefighters Stair Climb and college/professional Ultimate Frisbee competitions.
“We are approached daily by groups and promoters interested in using the Fortress for a multitude of events,” Kirk said. “Because of the demand, we can choose events that we feel are a good fit for our venue and our community.”