The town is applying for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant from the state to help pay for $2.5 million improvements to Fleming Loop Park, the facility that will soon host the WRAL Freedom Balloom Fest this month.
Fleming Loop Park is a 36-acre tract off Judd Parkway west of downtown Fuquay-Varina. Despite not having any infrastructure besides a gravel parking lot and some portable toilets, it’s the town’s most used park on weekends, said Jonathan Cox, director of the town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. It will see plenty of visitors later this month as the multi-day WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest is expected to bring 80,000 people to the area.
In July 2017, it’s slated for $2.5 million worth of improvements, which includes seven lighted multi-purpose fields. The project also will provide brick-and-mortar restroom and concession facilities, a paved parking lot and stormwater infrastructure and a walking track around the circumference of the park.
PARTF grants are dollar-for-dollar matching contributions from the state toward recreation-oriented capital projects. They max out at $500,000, meaning that if this year’s application is successful, the awarded money would cover about 20 percent of the project’s cost. Fuquay-Varina previously was awarded a PARTF grant for the construction of its community center in 2006.
Jonathan Cox, director of the town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, said it’s unknown whether the town will be awarded that money this year. The town expects to hear a decision about the grant by October.
“I don’t know if there’s going to be 10 applications or 40 throughout the state of North Carolina,” Cox said.
A $500,000 prepaid lease agreement with the Capital Area Soccer League is also being considered to fund the project. The league already hosts two tournaments at the town’s fields each year, Cox said, adding that he hopes the project will help attract additional tournaments.
The town also will apply for a $350,000 share of the hotel/motel and prepared food and beverage fees collected by Wake County, Cox said.
Town Manager Adam Mitchell said this is a bumper year for PARTF grants.
“It hasn’t been every year that there’s been an available funding cycle,” he said. “It’s a little unique that the 2016 cycle has additional resources to spread around.”
The total pool is $7.2 million, up from $4.8 million last year.
Morrisville is another area town that has noted that increase. Its town council voted April 26 to apply for a PARTF grant to help fund renovations to the town’s aquatics and fitness center.
Henry Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan