Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh to borrow for tennis, soccer and nature park projects

The city will borrow money to upgrade two soccer parks, complete a nature preserve park and build a tennis center as part of a $7.3 million package of special bonds approved last week.

The projects rely on a type of financing known as two-thirds bonds, which can be issued in any 12-month period when the city is not issuing new debt.

In approving the proposals, City Council members praised the involvement of companies, donors and nonprofits.

“They’re an investment in the city, and they’re partnerships between public and private (sources),” said Councilman John Odom, a former youth coach in baseball and basketball.

When it comes to park space, Odom said, “I don’t think you can ever catch up to the needs when we grow like we have in the last 20 years.”

State law allows the city to use up to two-thirds of its annual principal repayment on existing bonds for new bond projects.

The city has used this approach for the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater, City Plaza and the Hillsborough Street roundabout, among other things.

Still unsettled is the fate of an urban agricultural research center proposed in a former bus garage in the South Park community just south of downtown.

The project is backed by Olympic track legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who travels the country supporting public health initiatives.

But some neighbors say they’d prefer a grocery store and small businesses on the site.

Advocates for the center need more time to put together a business plan, City Manager Russell Allen has said.

A look at the projects

The 157-acre Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD, Nature Preserve already boasts classroom space, bathrooms and a picnic shelter.

The proposed second phase, which would cost the city $2.5 million, would turn Wilkerson’s home place into an education center. The city expects to raise corporate donations for features at the site.

A tennis center on Barwell Road in Southeast Raleigh will host tournaments, youth lessons and team play for Shaw and St. Augustine’s universities. The project calls for a mix of funding: $2.3 million in two-thirds bonds, $1.7 million from a 2003 park bond and $1 million in private donations.

The city and Capital Area Soccer League will partner on $2.5 million in improvements to the WRAL soccer park on Perry Creek Road in North Raleigh and the city-run Dix soccer fields off Western Boulevard.

Artificial turf would allow the fields to host more tournaments throughout the year because teams wouldn’t be limited by worn-down grass.

Overhead lights were initially part of the refurbishment of the Dix fields. But the lights were nixed amid concerns from neighbors worried about light pollution. Lights are still planned at the WRAL soccer park.

CASL, the state’s largest soccer club with more than 800 teams, will handle future maintenance at both venues.