Plans for a regional soccer complex in Knightdale were announced Tuesday, a project that is expected to feed an increasing enthusiasm for a sport that is growing faster than the area's population.
The complex was made possible by a land donation from longtime Knightdale-based Wake Stone Corp., which makes construction aggregate and limestone-based agricultural supplements. The company is giving the town 40 acres, valued at $2 million, toward the five-field soccer project.
It's the largest land donation since the town was founded in 1927, said a town spokesman.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to chip in $1 million in restaurant and hotel taxes toward the first phase, which including the value of the land is expected to amount to $9.5 million. Wake Stone intends to donate another 40 acres to build another five fields, that could also be funded by county occupancy taxes.
The 10-field complex will be near the intersection of Forestville and Old Crews roads.
North Carolina FC Youth will maintain the soccer complex and run youth programs there, under a 25-year lease.
Construction is expected to begin this fall. The town will build and own the grass soccer fields.
The company has been working on the plan with the town for a year.
"We've been in Knightdale almost 50 years, and this was an opportunity to grow with this community," Wake Stone president Sam Bratton said in an interview. "We felt this provided a great recreational opportunity. We've always given back. We certainly have contributed significantly to Knightdale and others.
"I think it will benefit the community and the county as a whole."
Wake Stone donated eight acres next to the town hall in 1994, which became an environmental park. The company has also donated vehicles and equipment to local fire departments, as well as funded town projects.
The NCFC Youth had a 16 percent increase in membership last year, according to the town's funding application. Its youth club's first season, last fall, had nearly 14,000 players ages 3 to 18.
But there are no soccer fields in eastern Wake County with regular access, the town says. Once the 10 fields are built, it could handle up to 1,600 additional players.
According to the town, the demand for soccer in Wake County is 29 percent higher than the national average. The county will have to expand soccer fields to meet the demand in what is also a fast-growing region.
The annual economic impact for the soccer complex is predicted to be $4.4 million and attract 260,000 visitors to eastern Wake.
Every weekend, there are more than 200 NCFC Youth teams playing in traveling soccer leagues throughout the state and southeast. Day and overnight visitors attend the games.
Bob Harris, director of operations for NCFC Youth, said the new complex will complement the 22-field WRAL Soccer Park in North Raleigh. The region will be able to host events that are larger than region's current capacity, he said. It could also host other competitive sports such as archery.
"This is huge," Harris said. "It's a great opportunity."
Staff writer Aaron Moody contributed.