Construction on the Western Wake Competition Center has been pushed back while the developer and the town resolve a misunderstanding about who pays for road infrastructure related to the facility.
Since project developer Jeff Ammons submitted a site plan and construction drawings this spring for the $14 million multi-sport athletic facility, he has asked for a 30-day extension to revise the plans to address comments from the town’s planning staff.
“I’m right in the throes of it, so I’d rather not dive too deep into the details yet,” said Ammons, president of Ammons Building Corporation, earlier this month. “But I’d consider what we’re going through typical of every project.”
The Western Wake Competition Center, as proposed, will include two full-size hockey rinks, a gymnastics center, volleyball courts and two soccer fields. It will be on 30 acres between Aviation Parkway and Airport Boulevard, which eventually will be connected by the extension of McCrimmon Parkway. That project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018, according to the town.
The Morrisville Town Council passed a resolution agreeing to a partnership with Ammons in 2013, which included a promise from the town that it would build a road to the site of the facility – McCrimmon Parkway Extension. That agreement helped the project win a $3 million tourism grant from Wake County, but as the town’s initial proposal to extend McCrimmon Parkway as a two-lane ribbon road evolved into plans for a four-lane thoroughfare with sidewalks, the nature of each party’s road-improvement obligations became less clear.
Town Manager Martha Paige said the town planned to build the road itself but still hold Ammons responsible, as it does with almost all other developers, for completing or paying for a certain amount of roadwork where his property fronts the road.
“Our infrastructure commitment is perhaps not what (Ammons) thought it was,” Paige said. “I think he thought he thought he would have no road improvement responsibilities. He’s made that clear. He wasn’t happy, and he didn’t expect that to be part of the project.”
To complicate matters, the anticipated cost of that obligation has risen as the McCrimmon Parkway project has expanded to include sidewalks, gutters and bike lanes. Ammons called the situation a “moving target.”
But both Ammons and Paige stressed that this misunderstanding hasn’t been the result of – or resulted in – an adversarial relationship between the developer and the town.
“The town has been great,” Ammons said. “We’re getting along perfectly, and we have a great working relationship.”
In February, Ammons said he had hoped to begin construction this summer. Even without this most recent extension – he will resubmit his plans by Aug. 12 – Paige said that had been an optimistic assessment. Ammons said he’s now hopeful that everything will be signed off on by early 2017.
The $3 million in county money came with time-related strings attached, though, that the town and Ammons might have to renegotiate. Under the conditions imposed when the partnership was agreed to in Feburary 2015, Ammons has until February of 2018 to have the facility up and running. That was attainable given the start date Ammons hoped for earlier this year, but if construction begins early next year, the February 2018 deadline might be less realistic.
“If we can get through the site plan, I think the county would be open to extending that as long as we’re underway,” Ammons said.
The center is expected to draw youth sports tournaments to Wake County. It is also possible the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes would use the center’s ice rinks as a practice facility.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan