Soccer park, town eye expansions

Published 9:46 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

BERMUDA RUN – With the town wanting to add parks and recreation facilities, and Twin City Soccer seeking to increase capacity for BB&T Soccer Park, the two entities may have found common ground for what both consider to be an ideal solution.

The Bermuda Run Town Council approved a resolution of intent to purchase property for recreation in last Tuesday night’s meeting.

Although it wasn’t an actual purchase agreement, the resolution detailed Twin City Soccer entering into a letter of intent with the Hillsdale Group to purchase 28 acres adjacent to its complex and north of the Bahnson Lakes and then asking the town to purchase 14 acres for the purpose of passive recreation, walking trails and parking.

The specified purchase price is $32,142 per acre for a total of $449,980 for 14 acres each for the town and the soccer complex.

For its part, Twin City Soccer plans to add three artificial turf fields, providing an opportunity for year-round play, and another grass field on the new land along with other improvements.

Scott Wollaston, executive director of the youth soccer association, said he is excited about the prospects of expanding the park and the positive impact on the community, and also pleased to have a partner like Bermuda Run.

“Obviously, they’ve agreed to move forward with the opportunity to purchase the land although we still have a lot of negotiating to go through,” Wollaston said. “We think it’s a perfect fit in terms of the town’s Comprehensive Master Plan. We thought this was a great partnership for that. By us buying that much land, we were able to negotiate a better price, so that helps the town by buying down the price. It’s encouraging to have the town support us, and we hope the other side is true that we are offering a great asset to the town of Bermuda Run in our growth model.”

Lee Rollins, town manager for Bermuda Run, agreed it was a win-win with the town looking to fulfill the top priorities outlined during the public input phase of the Comprehensive Plan – lack of pedestrian facilities (sidewalks, walking trails, greenways) and lack of parks and recreation facilities.

“Twin City Soccer needed 14 acres for their fields, but there’s other beautiful property, especially around the ponds,” Rollins said. “They knew what our plan was for trails. They invited us to participate, so that’s what the resolution entails.”

Rollins said that some walking trails are in place and this will tie in with the trail plan at Kinderton Village. The town is working with NCDOT on a sidewalk on Yadkin Valley Road at the entrance to Kinderton on Old Town Drive that connects to the hospital.

“Ideally, what we’re looking at here is the ability to create an entire loop,” Rollins said. “It will be a great network.”

In addition to trails, Rollins said that the town will look at shelters and playground areas along with parking and bathroom facilities, and working on an agreement with the soccer complex where they can use it for games.

As for Twin City Soccer, Wollaston said key considerations in proceeding with a growth initiative include being able to use the facility all 12 months with the new turf fields and increasing the total number of full-size fields to 17.

“That’s in the wheelhouse for recruiting national events to come to our area,” Wollaston said. “Those events typically want 16 to 20 full-size fields, so now we’ll be in those conversations that we weren’t in before. And there’s a need in our community for the artificial turf fields. The only ones now are at Wake Forest. We’re basically shut down four months a year now, so having the turf fields 12 months a year will allow us to host more events.”

Twin City Soccer has been exploring ways to increase capacity for BB&T Soccer Park for years and received positive feedback from a study done last year by The Huddle Up Group. Figures from Visit Winston-Salem have estimated the annual economic impact from the soccer complex to western Forsyth County and Davie County to be $16 million.

However, according to Wollaston, The Huddle Up Group estimated the addition of three artificial turf fields and another grass field along with year-round play and increasing the variety of sports offerings beyond soccer could increase the economic impact to about $25 million a year.

Wollaston said that’s “a bold prediction and won’t happen right away,” but his group has a “grand vision to make the park a true destination.” He projects the first two phases, which will include purchasing the land, three new artificial turf fields, a grass field and Stadium Field improvements, to cost an estimated $7 million.

Wollaston said there is already about $3.8 million in commitments from sponsorships, municipality support and individual support, and that more fundraising efforts, including seeking grants, would be in the works.

“It’s gone well so far, but we’re going to need more community support to get this done,” he said.

As for the rest of the project, Wollaston said that the third phase would include adding new parking and other lower-level amenities, and that the fourth phase would include building out the fieldhouse to add rehabilition, orthopedic and gym space as well as a restaurant on site.

In other business at last Tuesday night’s meeting, Bermuda Run welcomed two new council members to replace Shirley Cagle and Ken Bateman, who resigned their positions in the first two months of the new year.

The two additions, who were chosen by nomination and ballot method by the council, are Rick Cross and Mike Ernst. Their terms will expire in November along with incumbent councilman Ed Coley.

Cross is co-founder and partner of the Riverhorse Group, a consultancy firm, and a former vice president of consumer and trade marketing operations with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Ernst had a 31-year career as an executive with Hanesbrands Inc. and retired as president of the direct to consumer business. He serves on the Old Salem Museum & Gardens Board of Trustees as well as the Crosby Scholars Program.

Cross and Ernst were sworn in at the start of the meeting while Cagle and Bateman were recognized for their contributions as council members. Those wishing to seek a council spot can file for the three openings in July that will be up for grabs in the November election.

In the other action item on the agenda, the council approved a general fund balance and debt policy where the town’s undesignated fund balance should not be lower than 50 percent of General Fund, and the town strives to limit total debt service to no more than 15 percent of General Fund expenditures.