Boasting a potential $9 million yearly economic impact makes the proposed Naismith Legacy Park a lucrative choice for county commissioners but the goals of the park are also meant to help residents and budding athletes.
The Naismith Legacy Park will be a competitive basketball facility and in its first year, will host an 11-week summer tournament for over 250 teams from around the world.
The event, called the “Naismith Legacy Shootout,” according to a presentation made to county commissioners in March, is modeled after a youth basketball tournament at Cooperstown Dream Park in New York.
That tournament is where the bulk of the project’s revenue will come from.
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County staff recommended that the project, named after the creator of the game of basketball, receive money from a $6 million pool from taxes on hotels and food.
The money is being used to invest in projects that would benefit Wake County’s tourism industry.
But that tournment and athletic skills are not the only purpose of the facility, said John Naismith, the grandson of the John Naismith credited with creating basketball.
“Granddad had a degree in theology and thought sports would be a better way to help kids foster life skills,” Naismith said when meeting with Knightdale town officials and staff at the beginning of May.
“(The project is) a competitive sports camp where the competition is used not to develop the physical skills to play the game but to develop an understanding of how to play the game,” he said. “If you can play the game of basketball, you can play the game of life.”
The trademark summer camp of the Naismith Legacy Park will focus on basketball, but the proposal to the county said campers will also “take part in weekly community outreach efforts to the underserved of the Triangle area.”
And in keeping with helping those less fortunate, representatives from the Naismith Giving Foundation told county commissioners there will be grants for children to attend the $550 camp.
“There will never be a youth turned away that has a need,” the group told county commissioners.
Using the land
The Naismith facility is set to go up on 170 acres of donated land, all of which will be used to build what organizers are hoping will be a nationally known destination.
As proposed, the park will have two basketball villages for girls and boys. Each one of those villages will have nine field houses and cabins for campers and coaches.
As the project progresses, there will be opportunities for donors to purchase naming rights to the field houses.
During the off-season when summer basketball camps are not in session, plans submitted to the county show Knightdale’s Parks and Recreation department will be able to use the facility.
The group also said they will develop a relationship with the YMCA of the Triangle to have a full schedule of events.
“The people with the land and the town have gotten along for a long time in a positive way,” Naismith said about the decisions to bring the park to Knightdale.
“The important thing is that (we have) a similar bottom line. There’s just no other way to talk about it.”