Soccer complex on schedule

January 11, 2007

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Bulletin Staff Writer

Area youngsters may be playing soccer at a brand new, state-of-the-art complex as early as spring 2008.

Members of the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority learned Wednesday that bids for construction on the eight-field complex, which will be built on about 91 acres near the intersection of the U.S. 58 bypass and Irisburg Road, should go out by the end of the summer, with construction starting this fall.

The $4 million complex is part of a $20 million project financed by The Harvest Foundation that includes an 80,000-square-foot, two-level arena in Martinsville.

Roger Wiley, a Richmond attorney who is serving as an advisor for the project, told the board via speakerphone that the process of transferring ownership of the land to the authority is almost complete and preliminary work that includes design and construction documentation should be finished in about six months.

The complex should be ready for play by spring of next year, he said.

The authority approved a motion to pay $350 for title insurance on the property, a move necessary before a closing date on transfer of the property can be set, Wiley said. Henry County purchased the land and is donating it to the authority.

Benny Summerlin, county administrator and authority member, said The Harvest Foundation has transferred "$70,000 or $80,000" to the county to pay for such expenses. Also, he said an environmental assessment and flood plane study of the project have been completed and no problems were encountered.

Geo-technical borings also have been done, he said, and results should be available soon.

Those borings detect rock or other possible problems that can add to the expense of the project, Wiley said.

Bob Davis, chairman of the authority, said a time frame has not been set for the arena because many preliminary steps, including the city transferring ownership of the land at the corner of Fayette and Market streets to the authority, have not been completed.

"That (having projected start and completion dates) is a ways out," he said, although initial projections were that design work on the facility would begin this month, construction should start in October and the facility should be ready for use around October 2009.

The Harvest Foundation announced in October that the arena and soccer complex will be built. The arena will include a fieldhouse that can support basketball courts, volleyball courts and indoor soccer and can be used for trade shows and exhibitions.

Also, it will have a 30,000-square-foot multi-purpose area that can accommodate concerts and a 7,500-square-foot fitness space with a 1/8-mile elevated walking track.

The soccer complex will have bleachers, two lighted fields and other amenities.

The county is the fiscal agent for the authority.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, authority members discussed how the arena and soccer complex will be used and how to handle gifts and sponsorships.

Dale Neuburger, with PROS Consulting, an Indianapolis firm that specializes in helping start-up organizations, told members the facilities will have "two simultaneous goals that are not completely compatible."

Those goals, he said, will be to provide community recreation opportunities and to pursue economic development.

"They are two strong components that exist side by side, both of which you want to maximize," he said, adding that weekends usually are the best times to hold economic development events, such as a regional tournament, which would attract people from out of town. Weekday times, he said, are usually dominated by local use.

"That (weekends) is when we want people here," Mark Heath, executive director and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and authority member, said, adding that those visiting here for events at the arena and soccer complex will stay in local hotels.

Mike Smith, director of public relations for Martinsville Speedway, said the arena could be used on race weekends for racing-related events.

Neuburger encouraged members to establish a policy that is consistent, fair and has clear guidelines on the use of the facility and the fees charged.

"It (establishing that policy) will be one of the most important things you do," he said.

Neuburger said the authority also needs to look at the issues surrounding people, organizations or companies that want to donate money to the facilities.

"Look carefully at what obligations it (a gift) carries," he said, distinguishing between a simple gift and one that might expect something in return, whether it's naming a facility, sponsoring a tournament or a company that wants to exclusively market its product, such as a soft drink manufacturer.

The problem, he said, is that some gifts that look good at the outset can cause difficulties down the road. An example, he said, is a gift that sponsors a particular program for a certain period of time.

What happens if that donor does not donate more to keep that program going, he said.

Several authority members suggested emphasizing gifts for which the authority would place a plaque on a wall or perform some similar gesture that would show appreciation but not involve any obligations.

Davis told authority members that no decisions on how to handle those issues had to be made at Wednesday's meeting.

"The purpose of this exercise," he said, " is to get you thinking about what we'll be facing down the road."


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