Virginia Town Council Mulls Athletic Complex Proposal has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


CHRISTIANSBURG - More details are emerging on a major public project that promises to bolster the town 's recreational and athletic opportunities and enhance its standing as one of the New River Valley's retail and dining destinations.

The Christiansburg Town Council recently got another look at a conceptual plan for the Truman Wilson property along Peppers Ferry Road, just west of the town's North Franklin Street retail corridor.

The 60 farmland acres - named after its late owner who lived, farmed and operated a sawmill there - is being reserved for a planned development that will feature three athletic fields, a softball diamond, an amphitheater with a multi-purpose pavilion, four sand volleyball courts, two dog parks, a splash pad and a playground.

A four-lane connector road from Virginia 114 (Peppers Ferry Road) to Cambria Street near the town's recreation center is also envisioned.

The complex is estimated to cost $32 million, but several town council members want to lower that price and lessen the project's financial burden on the town.

"The $32 million estimate from the engineering firm is the highest potential cost and this includes providing access from Peppers Ferry Road N.W. into the park," Christiansburg spokeswoman Melissa Powell wrote in an email that references the future connector road council members hope the Virginia Department of Transportation will help finance.

"The $32 million accounts for $10 million in contingencies, and there are several options council will continue to discuss to lower that price."

While funding plans are undetermined, several council members said they'd like the town to receive outside money for the complex and attract sponsors to help fund operations. Town officials are also hoping to partially fund the complex with revenue generated by the sale and development of two 2.5-acre commercial parcels that would be separated from the park by the future connector road.

Council members said construction of the complex is still at least a few years out as the town is currently placing its priorities on public utility improvements.

They have suggested building the complex in phases and adding the easiest to build and most demanded amenities first.

"We wouldn't have to do it all at one time," said Councilman Harry Collins. "If we're smart and get the right people involved, I think we can make this happen. And we want it to be a signature park for Christiansburg."

Collins said he, like other council members, ardently supports the park, but feels financial constraints.

"I personally would not vote to have a tax increase to build the park," he said. "So we're trying to get outside funds, and I think we'll be successful at that."

Still, Powell said the town will bear the bulk of the project's costs. She said the locality has begun identifying recreation development and streets reserves as potential financial sources for the complex and connector road.

On the connector, Christiansburg could save money in the meantime by simply building an access to the park from Peppers Ferry until VDOT decides to help fund the four-lane road town officials envision, said Councilman Henry Showalter.

"It will give you access to two commercial lots and one of the proposed entrances for the park," he said. "It will be like a cul-de-sac."

The connector, which factors into the complex's cost estimates, has long been sought to relieve traffic congestion by connecting Peppers Ferry to Cambria Street.

The complex's operational budget is also being discussed.

Similar to the town Aquatic Center, budget projections show the town would have to subsidize the complex for at least the first five years. Projections show the complex's revenues will fall short of expenses by $86,196 during the first year and $194,826 by the fifth year.

The complex will make money from sports and amphitheater concessions, league and program fees and athletic field, amphitheater, picnic and central party facility rentals. Revenue is also expected to come from external sources such as sponsors and donations. Revenue for the complex's first year is projected to be $508,270.

Council members didn't express major concerns about the town subsidizing some operations. They pointed to the aquatic and recreational centers on North Franklin Street - both of which don't break even - and to the fact that users and visitors of the town's recreational facilities contribute to the town's economy by shopping and dining in Christiansburg.

Christiansburg's meal tax generates nearly twice as much money as its real estate tax. The real estate tax is often the single largest revenue stream in other localities.

"There are so many things the aquatic center generates that you cannot exactly figure it out," said Councilman Steve Huppert. "There's been several studies on the amount of money it brings in. It generates funds.

"In the future, when Truman Wilson gets going, we're hoping it will also generate money through soccer tournaments ... It's in a tremendous location and it has great potential."

The Truman Wilson complex is projected to have a local economic impact of $1.47 million annually, a figure that includes spending at Christiansburg shops and restaurants.

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May 28, 2017


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