Southwest Wake News

Holly Springs re-pitches baseball stadium to Wake board

Coastal Plain League President Pete Bock, pictured in September at a news conference, points toward the construction site for the stadium where the Holly Springs Salamanders will play this spring. Coach Andrew Ciencin, right, looks on. Holly Springs is seeking assistance from Wake County commissioners in funding the North Main Athletic Complex.
Coastal Plain League President Pete Bock, pictured in September at a news conference, points toward the construction site for the stadium where the Holly Springs Salamanders will play this spring. Coach Andrew Ciencin, right, looks on. Holly Springs is seeking assistance from Wake County commissioners in funding the North Main Athletic Complex. aspecht@newsobserver.com

A change in leadership on the Wake County Board of Commissioners may mean a change of fortune for Holly Springs and its hope to acquire county funding for the North Main Athletic Complex.

In August, Holly Springs leaders asked commissioners – a board with a Republican majority – for $1.5 million of the county’s $8 million in available hotel and restaurant tax revenues. The board didn’t approve the request.

But on Tuesday, the new board, composed entirely of Democrats, invited Holly Springs leaders to pitch the funding proposal again. This time, the town is seeking less money – $1 million.

No action was taken Tuesday. A vote to grant the funds requested by Holly Springs is expected to take place at the commissioners’ meeting on Feb. 2, said Commissioners Chairman James West at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We are going to look at this very seriously,” West said.

The town is in the process of building the $19 million complex, which will include turf soccer fields, tennis courts, an outdoor basketball court and 1,800-seat stadium. The Holly Springs Salamanders Coastal Plain League baseball team is set to play there this May.

But the town could use about $2.5 million in financial assistance to expedite the construction of a concessions area, stadium video screen and a connection from the stadium to the N.C. 55 Bypass.

The county board previously has used the hotel and restaurant tax revenues to fund projects such as the Raleigh Convention Center, WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary and Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh.

Last year, the three Democratic commissioners voted to grant Holly Springs its request, but the board’s four Republicans denied the funding because they said the complex wouldn’t benefit the local economy as much as they would like.

In November, all four Republicans lost their re-election bids to Democrats.

Tuesday, Mayor Dick Sears and three town staff members attended the meeting to talk about the complex and seek $1 million from Wake leaders, a figure that town officials said will bring the county a quicker return-on-investment than their previous request.

Had commissioners granted $1.5 million to Holly Springs last summer, it would have taken more than eight years for the county to recoup the money through hotel and revenue taxes generated by the project, said Daniel Weeks, senior project manager for the town.

The county will receive a full return on its investment within six years if it grants the town’s request for $1 million, Weeks said.

The annual return-on-investment would be about 18 percent, he said.

“Which I think anyone would love to get on the stock market these days,” he said.

Commissioners offered few comments on the presentation.

“I think it’s a great project. It’s beautiful,” Commissioner John Burns said. “What can you tell us about the influx of visitors this may generate?”

The Wake Futbol Club plans to hold tournaments at the complex four times a year, each time bringing 50 to 100 teams from across the state, Weeks said. He also said that the Coastal Plain League, of which the Salamanders are a member, stretches from Virginia to South Carolina and that fans from opposing teams likely will travel to watch games in Holly Springs.

“Those other people are gonna come in to be using our hotels and restaurants,” Sears said.

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