Knightdale may pursue funding for soccer complex

aspecht@newsobserver.comJune 25, 2013 

— Town Council hopes to partner with Wake County and local business Wake Stone to build a destination soccer field complex in Knightdale.

The complex would include three lighted turf fields – one of them surrounded by bleachers with seating capacity for 1,000 people – as well as a building equipped with wi-fi and heating and air-conditioning.

On Wednesday, Town Council voted to spend $7,400 to hire a consulting firm, CLH, that will design the complex and estimate construction costs.

Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen, who estimated the complex will cost between $7 million and $12 million, said the town will only pursue the complex if Wake County commissioners fund a majority of the project.

Wake County taxes hotel rooms and prepared food. Often, the board chooses to invest those funds into tourism-generating projects such as PNC Arena, the Raleigh Convention Center, and Five County Stadium in Zebulon.

This year, $6 million is available, and the field of applicants is unclear. Morrisville – which contributed $2.4 million in hotel taxes last year, the third-highest amount in the county – hopes to win funding to build Wake County’s first regulation-sized cricket fields.

Joe Bryan, Wake commissioners chairman, said the board would still “strongly” consider Knightdale’s project, even though the town only contributed $23,500 in hotel taxes last year.

“The land is secured, the project promotes active recreation, and it would bring in tourists from out-of-state,” said Bryan, who represents eastern Wake and lives in Knightdale.

The proposed site of the complex is 130 acres of property owned by Wake Stone off Forestville Road and Old Crews Road. The land is worth about $4 million, said Killen, who works as a development attorney. But the Knightdale-based company “approached us long before this with a desire to put this land to good use for the community,” Killen said.

The project has economic appeal because it’s supported by the Capital Area Soccer League, which generates more group hotel room stays for sports than any other organization in the Triangle, according to Scott Dupree, who’s in charge of recruiting athletic tournaments to Wake County through the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“One of our biggest needs in this market are turf fields with lights,” said Dupree, executive director of the alliance.

Currently, the five lighted, turf soccer fields – three existing, two under construction – at the WRAL Soccer Center in Raleigh are the only ones of their kind in Wake County. Dupree says lighted, turf fields provide “much more flexibility in recruiting tournaments to this area” because they can be used at night and in the rain for soccer, rugby, lacrosse, and ultimate frisbee.

Charlie Slagle, CEO of CASL, said he met with Killen to talk about the demand for such soccer facilities. For many large CASL tournaments such as the 4-weekend college “showcase” in November and December, CASL hosts games in Wilson and Rocky Mount due to a lack of lighted soccer facilities in the Triangle.

The CASL showcase attracts 1,000 teams from 40 states, bringing an estimated $9 million in visitor spending, according to the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“If Knightdale built the fields and had the parking, we would use all of it,” Slagle said.

Knightdale’s consulting firm will reveal its design and cost estimate by August. Wake County is expected to award the hotel tax-funded grants sometime this fall.

Staff writer Aliana Ramos contributed.

Specht: 919-829-4826

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