The design for Pleasant Park could be finalized by the end of this month, but how it will be funded could remain unresolved for months.
John Brown, Apex’s director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, said the consultants hired to come up with the design options likely will present several plans at committee meetings in early January. The Apex Town Council could be asked to take action at its Jan. 19 meeting.
At the council’s last meeting on Dec. 15, two dozen residents spoke about the park in a public comments part of the meeting. Park consultants from the Withers & Ravenel engineering firm also presented several design options to the council.
The consultants said that in addition to the goal of hosting tournaments to promote tourism and drive economic development, Pleasant Park also could help youth and school sports teams have a local place to practice or host competitors.
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Apex Friendship High School is a short drive away from the future park, and the nearby area in southwest Apex is growing quickly.
Jason Bertocino of Withers & Ravenel said Apex’s existing fields are in use every night of the week, and still there are waiting lists for the town-run youth soccer, softball and baseball teams due to lack of space. There are private travel teams and middle and high school teams to think about, too.
“A lot of the local school sports teams have to use fields in other towns right now,” Bertocine said. “That works, but it’s not desirable.”
Many of the residents like the idea of new fields and the benefits that tournaments could bring in the form of thousands of additional visitors to local stores, restaurants and hotels.
Scott Dupree, director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said soccer is the area’s biggest youth sport, and lacrosse is the fastest-growing youth sport. Having fields to accommodate tournaments for those sports, he said, in addition to baseball and softball, will be vital. He also likes that the designs incorporate cross country trails.
“It’s absolutely needed here,” Dupree said. “We really have just one competition-ready course in this part of the county.”
Other speakers – all of them residents of the small, secluded neighborhood next to the park space in southwest Apex – said they are concerned about safety, noise and light pollution. Some are eager, but cautious.
“It’s going to be a jewel of a park for Apex,” resident Tony Santitoro said. “Our concern is a safety one. And that’s the single point of access.”
Due to constraints that surround the former tobacco field that Apex bought last year, such as wetlands, N.C. 540 and railroad tracks, Pleasant Park might be able to have only one road in and out.
Brown said his staff in the parks department is aware of the concerns. The December meeting was not the first time that the neighbors have made their feelings known. But without an official design, Brown said, it hasn’t made sense to start discussions with the railroad company and the N.C. Department of Transportation about possible solutions.
That could change on Jan. 19, though, if the council picks a design.
At the Dec. 15 meeting, Mayor Lance Olive also promised that he and the council members are not ignoring their concerns.
“All the things we’re talking about today, I think I saw everybody up here taking notes,” he said after the 90-minute public comment session. “So we’re listening. ... Your words did not fall on deaf ears.”
After the design is chosen, a decision will need to be made about how to pay for it.
The 92-acre project will cost millions of dollars, Brown said, but a final price tag isn’t clear. The previous town council had discussed holding a bond referendum during the November elections to pay for the park, but the current council hasn’t raised the same topic.
But if a bond is approved by the town later this year, and then by voters in November, Brown said, “You would start seeing dirt moving out there spring of 2017, would be my guess.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran