Officials praise project

October 10, 2006

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

People of all ages are eager to see two new sports-related complexes that will be built in the Martinsville area.

The Harvest Foundation on Monday confirmed plans to spend about $20 million to build an eight-field outdoor soccer complex near the intersection of U.S. 58 Bypass and Irisburg Road (Virginia 650) and an 80,000-square-foot, two-story fieldhouse uptown that can be used as a civic center.

Monday was "a monumental day" in local history because a project was announced that not only will benefit economic development, but also the area's youth, said Martinsville City Councilwoman Kathy Lawson.

Martinsville Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. said that lots of young people have told him they play sports. He pointed out the large number of high school students who attended Monday's announcement.

As a video highlighting design plans for the complexes was shown, the students frequently cheered and applauded, especially when a spectator basketball court came on the screen.

"I realize the importance of our future (in terms of community needs) by looking into their eyes," Reynolds said.

H.G. Vaughn, chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, echoed Reynolds' comment.

"Let's boil it down," said Vaughn, who represents the Ridgeway District. "If you want to know why this project makes sense, look into the faces of these young people."

He added that the project shows that private and public entities can "come together for the common good."

The importance of the announcement was not lost on the young people in the audience.

"The money we're putting into this (project) will come out in the end" in terms of attracting visitors to the area, said Amber Sigmon, a Magna Vista High School student who was among numerous young people attending the announcement at Patrick Henry Community College.

Her friend, Samantha Campbell, who also attends Magna Vista, noted that the fieldhouse will be large enough to host concerts.

"There's not really anywhere in Martinsville to have a concert," she said.

Sigmon and Campbell both play softball at Magna Vista. They said they are sort of disappointed that softball was not included in the complexes, but they still think the facilities will be good for the area.

Harry Lance, who was named Monday to the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority which will oversee the complexes, has been involved in soccer in the area for years. He said the new field "will benefit the kids. It will develop soccer in the area."

He noted that local teams often travel out of town for tournaments, such as those in Roanoke, Charlotte and other areas. With the new complex, "we can bring those teams here," he said.

Local officials agreed that the complexes could boost tourism by bringing in athletes and spectators from elsewhere for tournaments.

Out-of-towners boost the local economy when they visit Henry County and Martinsville because they stay in local motels, shop in local stores and eat in local restaurants, according to officials.

Mark Heath, president/chief executive officer of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., told those present that Gary Collins of Martinsville calculated that "$12,000 in Martinsville-Henry County money" was spent in Roanoke last weekend when five local soccer teams played there. And Roanoke made $200,000 on that tournament, Collins added later.

And when three teams traveled to Charlotte, N.C., the money spent rose to $22,500 because lodging costs were included, Collins said.

Vaughn noted that major sporting events are held in larger cities such as Roanoke, Blacksburg and Greensboro, N.C.

"We look forward to taking their business," he said.

"I am as excited about this project as any in recent memory," Vaughn added. "What we can accomplish is limited only by ourselves."

The uptown complex will have exercise equipment. Another Magna Vista student, Amber Hairston, said she will enjoy working out there.

Rachael Passafaro, who works at Magna Vista, said she will enjoy a climbing wall planned for the uptown complex.

"I'm very excited" about the facility, she said. "I wish it was here right now."

The two complexes will be "a wonderful opportunity" for the community, said Virginia King, who lives in uptown Martinsville. She added that they will give young people things to do.

Martinsville Vice Mayor James Clark said he envisions the complexes doing enough business to attract new motels and restaurants.

"They should be able to bring in some of the upper crusts of restaurants into the community," said Clark.

In deciding to build the complexes, Reynolds said, The Harvest Foundation "picked up the ball and ran with it," so to speak. He called the announcement a "touchdown."

"It's a no-brainer," said Reed Creek District Supervisor Andy Parker. He said the facilities will have a tremendous impact on the community.

Dick Hensley, who is a former Martinsville High School football coach and headmaster emeritus at Carlisle School, attended Monday's announcement and called it "sensational." He praised the "spirit of cooperation to bring it all together."

Husky Hall, who coached the Martinsville High School basketball team for many years, had one of the commemorative basketballs handed out after the announcement.

"It's one thing the youth needed, to have a place to play," he said, adding that the improved competition that the fieldhouse will attract will raise the skills of local basketball players.


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