Editors note: The name Jeff Hsu was misspelled in the print edition and was changed in the online version. Also added are comments from Johnson City Commissioner Todd Fowler.
By Gary Gray
Johnson City will play host in four to six weeks to Asian investors considering a $50 million to $60 million backing of a new sports science research center on 30 acres of city-owned land off West Market Street.
City Manager Pete Peterson, Mayor David Tomita and Commissioner Todd Fowler, along with East Tennessee State University sports science experts Mike and Meg Stone, took a 10-day trip to Beijing, China, and Taipei, Taiwan, that apparently renewed interest in the facility.
“Jeff Hsu, from Taiwan, is the main driver behind the project,” Peterson said Monday, also noting that Hsu is owner of Integreation Sports, a company in Taiwan.. “He has shown extreme interest and has been to Johnson City four or five times, so he’s somewhat familiar with what we have here. He is working with some folks in Beijing who want to come here. They also are looking at sending some Chinese athletes with the Stones.
“He’s working with the Chinese to see how a bigger facility here can be built. He sees this as a business model he can replicate in Asia. Right now, it looks like two different groups from Taiwan will come over and train with the Stones. From there they will determine whether they want to go forward with the investment.”
Peterson called the sojourn an “investment recruiting trip.”
He said athletes worldwide could come to Johnson City to enhance their physical capabilities in numerous sports should the deal go through.
“What the city envisions is that as these individuals and teams travel here to train, we could include them in local tournaments,” he said. “Jeff is bringing individual baseball players to a local camp, and they will also visit the Johnson City Cardinals. The Chinese are interested, and he has a lot of connections with them. We also wanted to see if the Taiwanese government was interested in investing in our facility.”
Fowler said that investors from both Taiwan and China are “very interested” and they are looking at ways to make this happen sooner than later.
“We talked with them about using existing buildings in Johnson City,” Fowler said. “That would allow us to be up and running in 16 to 18 months. It may take five to seven years to be in ta new facility next to Innovation Park.”
The Johnson City contingent attended several seminars in Beijing and Taipei regarding sports science, and also met the person who runs the Chinese Sports Science Department.
Tomita was not immediately available for comment.