Apex leaders hope to transform 92 acres of former tobacco fields into a park with ball fields that will cater to a growing population in the southwest side of town and attract out-of-town visitors.
The town bought the land this month for $3.4 million, said John Brown, the town’s director for Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources.
It’s located southwest of N.C. 540, between the intersections of U.S. 1 and Old U.S. Highway 1, and will be named Pleasant Park for the property’s previous owners, Willard and Hazel Pleasant. They bought the land in the ’60s. The town bought the property from Hazel Pleasant and her daughter, JoAnn Sieburg-Baker, said town spokeswoman Stacie Galloway.
While the park has yet to be designed, leaders envision the park having athletic fields, playgrounds, trails and picnic shelters as well as water features, such as a splash pad.
Brown said the addition of baseball, soccer and softball fields could attract youth sports tournaments, and groups could rent the park’s facilities. The town doesn’t generally host youth tournaments, he said, because town facilities are too busy with other activities to host outside groups.
But adding field and facility rentals could boost the local economy, he said.
“We really envision it being something we don’t have at all in Apex right now,” Brown said. “What we envision is a very active park facility that will not only serve our needs, as far as the programs that we offer, but also do some things related to economic development, like tournaments that will bring people in to visit Apex, shop in Apex.”
Any town that hosts a tournament for travel soccer, baseball or softball can reap the financial benefits of having out-of-town visitors stay in its hotels, eat at its restaurants and contribute to sales tax revenue, officials said.
“Athletic fields will be designed to bring tournaments and other events to Apex, increasing tourism dollars in town,” Mayor Bill Sutton said in a news release.
Brown said Cary has many similar fields for tournaments that have done well as tournament hosts, although he added Apex’s new fields will likely be on a smaller scale.
Brown said he hopes to have a design in the next few months when elected officials will start debating next year’s budget. The costs of designing and building the park have yet to be determined.
If the Apex Town Council approves plans for the park, Brown said, they could choose to fund it all at once or in stages.
“If they wanted to do it in phases, it could take years,” he said. “If you do it all at one time, you’re still looking at 18 to 24 months.”
The park will be the third biggest park in town. Apex Community Park is about 150 acres, and the Apex Nature Park and Seymour Athletic Fields are about 160 acres. But Brown said the addition of the property is a “really exciting opportunity” for the town to expand its parks system, which now contains about 520 acres.
“What this will be is the first significant park acreage in southwest Apex,” Brown said. “And the way we’re growing, that’s something that was identified in our master plan.”