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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
October 24, 2013 Thursday
Virginia; Pg. A1
|Group still plans to spur soccer complex|
By Matt Chittum firstname.lastname@example.org 981-3331
Roanoke's Valley AFC youth soccer club is leasing space for a small training facility in southeast Roanoke in hopes of reviving an idled plan to build a 10-field complex on adjacent land.
The leased land is owned by IDICO, the same group that owns the Roanoke Industrial Center next door. It's also next to a 30-acre parcel Valley AFC was negotiating to buy from a different company before a Missouri company proposed putting a propane gas tank farm and terminal on the land.
The lease of 4 to 5 acres from IDICO is "part tactical and part practical," said Andrew Gentiluomo of Valley AFC. Practically, the 2,300-player club just needs more field space. While the leased site will offer room for just one full-size field and two smaller ones for players eight and under, Gentiluomo hopes it will also serve to show what can happen on that adjacent 30 acres. That's the tactical part.
If Valley AFC can achieve its dream of developing a large soccer complex on the site, it would relieve pressure on numerous municipal fields the club currently rents, making room for other users, Gentiluomo said. Once fully developed, it could host tournaments that would be a powerful economic engine for the region.
"It becomes a truly regional destination," Gentiluomo said.
Valley AFC was tantalizingly close to being on its way to that dream, according to Gentiluomo. The club was in long talks with the owner of the 35-acre parcel, Roanoke Valley IDICO, a separate group from the company that owns the land Valley AFC is leasing.
The parties had settled on a price - $575,000 - and Valley AFC was so confident the deal would happen it had prepared a news release, said Gentiluomo.
"We were at the altar," he said.
Roanoke Valley IDICO acquired the land last year from IDICO. The former group had been a partner in the latter, and getting the 30-acre parcel was part of a deal in which IDICO bought out Roanoke Valley IDICO's interest.
Will Trinkle, manager for IDICO, said the belief was that the land would then be sold to Valley AFC, though there was no formal agreement, and by the time the deal with Roanoke Valley IDICO was closed, it was apparent the sale to the soccer club was in trouble.
By then, Inergy Services LLC had proposed the propane tank farm, along with a rail siding, and Roanoke Valley IDICO decided to pursue that avenue instead.
"That was more in line for what we were established for originally," said Jay Turner, board chairman of Roanoke Valley IDICO. "We would have gotten a better return on that, and also the land would have stayed on the city tax rolls" since Valley AFC is a nonprofit.
Ultimately the tank farm deal fell apart, too, amid vehement protests from neighbors.
Turner said his group has decided to try for another year or a little longer to market the land for industrial or commercial use. He believes it's the only piece of land with the potential for a rail siding in the city, making it a precious commodity.
"We feel like we ought to give it one last shot to see if we can do what the organization was set up to do," he said. After that, they could re-consider Valley AFC's proposal. "We certainly haven't shut the door on it."
Gentiluomo argues the facility would be a boon for the localities and other clubs and sports that need field space. If Valley AFC has a permanent home, it would release space it currently uses for other teams.
The club uses up to 10 fields three hours a night almost every day of the week, he said. It spends its own money to maintain fields it doesn't own at Roanoke County's Merriman Road complex and the Salem VA Medical Center. They paid to have fields lighted at Merriman.
The debt service on the 30-acre parcel would be less than what the club is paying now in field maintenance, Gentiluomo said. Its remote location would hardly be a bother to players and their families who come from a 200-mile radius around Roanoke and are already spread over far-flung facilities, he said. It's within a mile of downtown, he noted.
They'd begin with three to five grass fields, followed by a clubhouse, restrooms and concessions. Ultimately they would add a small stadium, likely with an artificial turf field and several other fields.
It would be a "top tier" facility, Gentiluomo said.
Four or five tournaments a year could pour from $10 million to $30 million into the region's economy, he said.
Trinkle said his group supported the soccer facility idea, and still believes it would be a great use, and the lease of the smaller parcel to Valley AFC was part of that. He believes it can still happen.
"Cooler heads will prevail and people will see this is the best use for the property," he said.
Gentiluomo and Valley AFC hope so, too.
"We have the girth, we have the financing, we can do it." \
The Valley AFC youth soccer club uses up to 10 fields three hours a night almost every day of the week.
map - Roanoke Valley IDICO land and Proposed soccer fields THE ROANOKE TIMES
October 24, 2013