Uptown arena is reassessed

December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation is reassessing its plans for an uptown Martinsville fieldhouse/arena.

“We’ve decided to step back and further look at what we originally planned to do,” said Allyson Rothrock, executive director of the foundation. “We want to make sure that the community is completely involved in the process of what’s in it,” she said. “Everybody needs to support it and be part of whatever we end up doing.”

Two years ago, the foundation unveiled a $20 million plan to build the arena in Martinsville and a soccer complex in Henry County. The latter now is under construction near the intersection of the U.S. 58 Bypass and Irisburg Road.Under the plan, a $16 million, 80,000-square-foot fieldhouse/arena is to be built on a vacant lot bordering Fayette, Market, Church and Moss streets in uptown Martinsville. The facility is to have basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer courts and a walking track, yet it is to be designed in a way that it can accommodate trade shows, exhibitions and concerts, the plan shows.

Rothrock said recently that unveiling the fieldhouse/arena plans two years ago may have been premature. “What has happened is that so much has changed in the past 18 to 24 months,” she said on Wednesday, citing the national economic downturn, the lessons learned during construction of the soccer complex and more going on uptown. “We feel like we need to step back and not move forward on something that could be a challenge to sustain and support,” she said.

Rothrock said Harvest will hold community forums to get public input, visit other communities to see what has worked for them and make other efforts to determine the right project. “Because the foundation wants to ensure that the investment of foundation and community resources is sustainable, it will work on maximizing our community’s ability to secure additional sources of funding for this and complementary projects,” a Harvest release stated.

Harvest remains committed to what it calls “making a transformational investment in uptown Martinsville” and the uptown site, according to Rothrock and the Harvest release. “The goal of this investment would be to continue the work already in place to revitalize uptown Martinsville. Additionally, this investment would serve the long-term needs and interests of our community’s residents and institutions and be able to adapt as those needs and interests evolve,” the release stated.

Rothrock said the project is a top priority for Harvest, but she could not give a time frame for reaching a decision. “It will be on the very front burner for us,” she said. She added that the economic difficulties in the area and across the country have presented “a unique opportunity to step back and make sure we’re doing the right thing. That includes building as much flexibility into the uptown revitalization project as possible so it can be used for a variety of purposes to help ensure its chance for long-term economic success. “We’re working with our partners on a comprehensive series of initiatives, projects and plans that will help prepare uptown for the future,” she added.

Martinsville City Manager Clarence Monday said the city understands Harvest’s approach. “The city understands the importance of developing a well thought out, comprehensive plan for uptown revitalization, one that has the needs of the entire community at the forefront. The city appreciates the due diligence and genuine support of The Harvest Foundation, and in the end, the goal is for this uptown transformation to be one that others look up to when describing a community of the future,” he stated in a release.

The Harvest Foundation was created in 2002 from the proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health Systems. It provides grants for health, education and community vitality (formerly welfare) initiatives in the area.


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