North Raleigh News

County fills budget gaps for Holly Springs stadium park, NCSU museum

An athletic complex in Holly Springs and a museum at N.C. State are set to receive county money. The decision on Monday marked a change of fortune for the two projects.

It was less than a year ago when the Wake County Board of Commissioners denied funding to the Holly Springs’ North Main Athletic Complex and the new Gregg Museum at N.C. State. On Monday, a new Democratic majority freed up about $1.7 million in tax revenues from hotels and restaurants to pay for the projects.

The board unanimously agreed to award $1 million to Holly Springs and $650,000 to N.C. State. Projects that receive this type of funding are meant to draw tourists to the area, generating additional hotel- and restaurant-tax revenues.

Holly Springs has nearly finished building its $19 million athletic complex, which includes a baseball stadium, tennis courts and soccer fields. However, the infusion of an additional $1 million should restore elements cut from the original blueprints, possibly including a beer garden, concession stand, improvements along Main Street and additional restrooms.

“The town did a good job of coming back to us and saying why this would bring folks in from outside,” said Commissioner John Burns, one of four new members of the board.

“I’ll be looking for projects that will add to tourism. I didn’t want there to be any sense that we were going back and revisiting old decisions. ... You convinced me.”

Last time around, the board voted 4-3 along party lines to deny funding to the park. The four Republicans weren’t convinced the project would do enough to boost the local economy. The previous panel awarded money to only two of the 10 projects in the running.

Since then, the county checked its budget and found $2 million it could award. Holly Springs may have bettered its odds by shrinking its request from $1.5 million to $1 million. Otherwise, it didn’t change its estimates of how many people or how much money the project would bring.

Mayor Dick Sears praised the commissioners for being accessible. Each new member visited his office during their campaigns and discussed the project, he said.

The Holly Springs Salamanders, a Coastal Plain League baseball team, is set to open the stadium on May 28. Town staff estimate the county recoup its $1 million back in six years in increased tourism-tax revenues.

N.C. State officials had first asked for $2 million toward the Gregg Museum. The nearly $10 million plan will renovate the former chancellor’s residence on Hillsborough Street and build 15,000 square feet of museum space to house tens of thousands of historic and art objects.

The university estimates the county will recoup its investment within two years through the additional hotel and restaurant business. Commissioners will have to approve final agreements for both projects.