04/03/13 — Multi-sport complex eyed

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Multi-sport complex eyed

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 3, 2013 1:46 PM

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An artist's rendering of a proposed multi-sport complex off Harding Drive that is being considered by the Goldsboro City Council

With a rendering showing them what a potential multi-sport complex off Harding Drive could look like, members of the Goldsboro City Council voted Monday to push ahead with more information gathering -- including an idea of what the impact would be if a Coastal Plains League baseball field was added to the 44-acre site.

The property, which is owned by the Goldsboro Family YMCA, currently features two soccer fields. The current proposed phase one of the project would add four more fields that could be made from a synthetic material instead of dirt and grass -- an important consideration in terms of travel and tourism.

And while that decision hasn't been made -- the higher upfront costs must be weighed against the lower long-term maintenance costs -- Rick Sumner, chairman of the City Travel and Tourism board of directors, said it could be a big difference maker.

Not only is it something that no other fields in eastern North Carolina can offer, but, he said, the combination of the synthetic surface, the region's warmer winter temperatures and lighted fields would allow play year-round with limited disruption from weather events.

"All our competition (in surrounding counties), none of them have synthetic fields," said Betsy Rosemann, director of travel and tourism. "With those, you can play year-round. What that does is give us the capability to bring in users from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, and they'll travel that far for tournaments, especially in the winter months."

And, Sumner added, when people travel from that far away, that means more business for the surrounding hotels and restaurants.

Already, said Ms. Rosemann, the city has seen the economic impact that youth sports can provide with the YMCA's swim meets bringing in about $250,000 annually. Add to that tournaments for youth soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey and other field sports, and that number should easily increase.

But, they noted, the project is still in its very early stages. The next step now, and the one that Council agreed to spend $9,500 out of the city's occupancy tax fund to support, is to find out more about what it would take to make those renderings, which also include parking, a playground and support buildings in the first phase, a reality.

"We want to know, to make these renderings a reality, what has their (consulting group Site Solutions) experience been," Sumner said. "We will get a lot of value for that $9,500 -- information we can use when we bid the project out."

In addition, he said, while the Coastal Plains baseball project is separate from this partnership between the city and the YMCA, the consultants will be looking to see if it would make sense to include them as part of this effort -- or if that might be a more appropriate facility to have elsewhere in the county.

"They'll do a lot of due diligence," Ms. Rosemann said, noting that Site Solutions is experienced with such projects.

The goal, she and Sumner, agreed is to now return to council within 30 days with an updated rendering -- one with a baseball field and one without -- and begin the process of hiring an architect and putting the project out for bid. The hope, they said, is to have this new complex up and running by October 2014.

The Goldsboro YMCA, in partnership with Goldsboro Parks and Recreation and Travel and Tourism has already received a $500,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation to help pay for the project.