March 7, 2008
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Ground will be broken for the Smith River Sports Complex in early April and construction is expected to be completed in about 12 months, officials with The Harvest Foundation said Thursday.
The Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority already is talking with soccer enthusiasts about having games there. Dennis Toney, the authority's executive director, said he hopes to have events scheduled by the time the complex opens next year.
Allyson Rothrock, assistant executive director of the foundation, said she could not be more specific about when the complex will be finished.
"You never know what may happen" during the construction process, said Rothrock, adding that weather will be a key issue. For instance, a prolonged period of heavy rain could delay construction.
The $8.7 million complex will be developed on about 90 acres near the U.S. 58 Bypass/Irisburg Road (Virginia 650) intersection. The foundation will pay for the construction. When the complex is finished, it will be turned over to the authority, which will own, manage and maintain it, officials said.
Final design plans show the complex will have two championship soccer fields, each with lights, an electronic scoreboard and fixed bleachers for 250 spectators.
It also will have three other full-sized soccer fields with lights, a practice field, a playground, two picnic shelters, walking and nature trails, canoe access on the Smith River nearby, concrete sidewalks and a pavilion with a concession stand, restrooms and office and meeting space, design plans show.
Rothrock said the final plans are the same as the preliminary plans that were on display earlier this week at Fast Track 2008, the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce's annual trade show.
The plans show that the championship fields are to have artificial turf while the other fields are to have natural turf. Rothrock said the artificial turf will help attract soccer players from outside Henry County and Martinsville since no other soccer facilities in the region have it.
Players can always use artificial turf fields, except during bad weather, but grass fields are not always in good shape for soccer matches, she said.
"Synthetic turf is very popular now," added Toney.
The walking and nature trails and canoe access also should attract soccer enthusiasts from elsewhere because many other soccer complexes do not have similar amenities, said authority board member James McClain.
The pavilion buildings are designed to look like tobacco barns along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rothrock said that since farms are in the area surrounding the sports complex site, those involved in designing the complex "didn't want to take away from the (rural) heritage of this area."
Woolpert Inc., a nationwide architectural and engineering firm with offices in Arlington and Portsmouth, developed the design plans.
Rich Killingsworth, executive director of The Harvest Foundation, said the complex will help make Henry County-Martinsville a "community of choice" -- one which people seek out as a place to live and work.
"The sports complex is an amenity that will serve as an incredible resource for our residents," he said, and it will "add another feature to our community that influences people to visit" and experience the local beauty.
"There's not anything within 50 miles that will compare ... close to what we'll have" at the complex, Toney said.
Rothrock said that to her knowledge, the nearest soccer complex now in existence that may be as elaborate as the planned Smith River facility is in Rock Hill, S.C.
Jimmy R. Lynch & Sons of Pilot Mountain, N.C., will be the project's general contractor. However, the firm plans to subcontract approximately $2 million in work on the complex to some Martinsville-area contractors, including W-L Construction/APAC Fieldale, Boxley Materials, Quirk Design Build and Light Electric, according to foundation officials.
Rothrock said Jimmy R. Lynch & Sons was chosen because it has extensive experience in site development. That experience includes developing a utility corridor for Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C.
Bob Davis, president of the foundation's board, said the foundation was "very thorough" in searching for the right contractor for the project. The process included prequalifying contractors and newspaper advertising, he said.
Eight contractors were prequalified by the foundation, which gave them a bid package and a Feb. 12 deadline for submitting bids. Six contractors actually submitted bids, though, officials said.
The Harvest Foundation is a private entity, established in 2002 to invest proceeds from the sale of Memorial Hospital in Martinsville in community causes focusing on health, education and welfare.
Still, it "opened the bid to the public to give every interested party the opportunity to participate in this project," said Davis.
After the groundbreaking on the soccer complex, Davis said, the foundation will be able to turn its attention to developing an 80,000-square-foot indoor sports arena and field house to be built at the corner of Fayette and Market streets in uptown Martinsville.
The cost of the uptown project, which also will be turned over to the authority to own and operate, has been estimated at $16 million.
The foundation is committed to boosting sports-related tourism in the area, officials said.
Toney said, though, that many people he has talked with locally are "very excited" about the prospect of using the complex.
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