The deal to build a $10 million Naismith Legacy Park on land to be donated by Wake Stone and with help from a $3 million Wake County grant has fallen apart.
Wake Stone Chief Financial Officer Tom Oxholm his firm and the town had begun to sense as early as last year that the project would not work out, and Wake Stone pulled out of the agreement.
“We pulled the plug because we lost confidence that this project was going to happen,” Oxholm said.
Oxholm said Naismith representatives had not been in regular contact with Wake Stone or with the town of Knightdale.
“They’ve been gone for two years now and raised no money other than what the county offered as far as we can tell. ... We asked for updates on projections and fundraising and they didn’t provide any,” Oxholm said.
Oxholm said it also wasn’t clear if the Naismith organization understood that the town would own the property, not Naismith.
The land remains with Wake Stone and the county money goes back up for grabs, Knightdale Development Services Director Chris Hills said.
“It is not assigned to any one project,” Hills said of the grant. “It probably would have to compete with other uses.”
The Naismith organization was not able to collect the $5 million from investors it was required to contribute to move the deal forward, according to Knightdale Town Councilman Randy Young. Naismith has a deadline of this month to collect its portion from investors.
Naismith representative Damon Fogal, in an email to Wake County last December, said the project was no longer going to be sited at the Knightdale location.
“After speaking with the key people in our group, we will be looking for another site. Of course it is unclear if the new site will be in Wake County,” Fogal wrote in his email.
Hills said he didn’t know what would happen with the 170 acres of Wake Stone land on the corner of Forestville Road and Old Crews Road where the basketball facility was to have gone, but that the town would continue to look for uses with the property owner.
“There is nothing set in stone on that property,” he said, “but the town is excited to work with them. ... The ball is absolutely in their court regarding what might be there going forward.”
The lost project doesn’t mean organizers have given up on a future town use for the property, Oxholm said.
“As of right now, we have no plans for the property,” Oxholm said. “We are interested in any long-term plans the town might have. We’re always interested in anything that will help the town.”
The land is zoned general residential, which allows up to eight housing units per acre. The land is valued at about $4 million.
Fogal did not return calls for comment about the project.
The county selected the Naismith project, and one other, from among 10 proposals seeking money from the county’s food and beverage tax fund. The Matthews-based Naismith Legacy organization requested $3 million – the county’s funding limit – which county commissioners approved.
Two so-called basketball villages would have included 18 fieldhouses and facilities for youth basketball camps. Much of the park’s revenue would have come from an 11-week tournament it planned to host in its inaugural year. As many as 250 teams from around the world would have been invited to compete.
The town would have been able to use the facility when it was not is use for camps.
Morrisville was awarded the other $3 million from Wake for an indoor multi-sport facility.
The Naismith group is affiliated with James Naismith, whose grandfather, also named James Naismith, is credited with creating the game of basketball.
The younger Naismith said in a visit to Knightdale that the goal of the camps and facility was to use the game of basketball to teach life lessons.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826