The Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce hosted a public introduction to the Greenbrier County Commission’s plans to build a public recreation facility on Harper Road, four miles off I-64, overlooking the Greenbrier River. The event took place at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) on Tuesday.
The 140-acre sports park is anticipated to include four baseball fields, five soccer fields, a walking trail, an archery field and more. Area residents filled the theater auditorium for the presentation moderated by Josh Baldwin.
“We’ve been working on this project off and on for three years,” said Greenbrier County Arts and Recreation Director Roy Grimes, stating he was happy to finally see this plan come to fruition.
The project has been divided into three phases, Grimes said. The baseline cost of each phase is estimated to be $833,000, for a total cost of $2.5 million. Phase I will cover the development of the baseball and soccer fields and a 2.5 mile long walking trail. Optional considerations for phases II and III could include horseshoe pits, disc golf, a dog park, a walking trail to the river trail, horse stables and eventually an amphitheater for concerts.
Grimes said all phases of development for the park will be funded by hotel and motel tax monies through the county commission. The yearly operating cost for the park, after construction, is projected to be $200,000, coming from the county’s arts and recreation budget. Anonymous donations have also been granted to the project, he said, totaling over $1 million.
“I want to emphasize to everyone that we’re not going to take money away from the arts and the historic society and all of the other things that we do,” said Commissioner Lowell Rose. “We have been able to put away a little money each year, and that is what we’re looking at in regard to operating costs.”
The commission is hopeful that the park will pay for itself and also provide more economic opportunities for the area. An estimated 1,800 participants in youth team sports are expected to be “captured” during weekend tournament event, as the sports tourism market of all levels, from Little League tournaments to college-level sporting events, are drawn to the facility. Economic opportunity is anticipated to spread through the entire area from concession and restaurant food sales, overnight stays in hotels and gas expenditures from an estimated 20 annually held, seasonal sport tournament events.
A few questions were raised after the presentation, one of which concerned the use of a 30-acre parcel on the northwest side of the State Fairgrounds of West Virginia, at one time considered as a potential base for the park. That location was rejected for two reasons: 1) the 30-acre fairgrounds parcel was greatly dwarfed by the 140-acre option, and 2) the fairground property would require costly, extensive rock drilling.
Plans are in place to remove between 60 and 75 acres of trees on the 140-acre property, and to level the mostly flat land for the park development. The Commission hopes to begin preparing the land soon and having the park open by 2019.
Project leaders are hoping to have the community’s support for this project, and Grimes said he welcomes helping hands and any ideas the community may have.