Proposed basketball park in Knightdale is one of county’s top picks

aramos mquillin@newsobserver.comMarch 12, 2014 

— A proposed indoor athletic facility in Knightdale seems to be Wake County commissioners' favorite pick for where to invest a portion of $6 million gathered from taxes on hotels and food.

County commissioners could decide to fund one, several or none of the proposals presented in a work session on Monday based on their ability to generate more tax revenue.

The proposed project in Knightdale is called the Naismith Legacy Park and will be used mainly for basketball camp.

The project, which is named after James Naismith, who invented basketball, would be used by the YMCA of the Triangle and the town of Knightdale when camp is not in session.

“We have a limited amount of (one-time) money,” said Commissioner Joe Bryan. “The other projects are clearly not of the significance of the Naismith (park).”

Proposed by the nonprofit Naismith Legacy Group of Matthews the park would include two “basketball villages” with 18 fieldhouses and overnight accommodations for summer youth basketball camp participants.

Most of the $10.1 million to build the facility would come from private donations. Representatives from the Naismith Legacy Group asked for $3 million from the county.

Knightdale Town Manager Seth Lawless said as the proposal stands, the project wouldn't cost the town any money.

According to materials provided by the Naismith Group to county commissioners, the group has pinpointed a plot of land at the corner of Forestville and Old Crews roads in the town as a proposed location.

The land, which is near Knightdale United Methodist Church, is currently not owned by the town, Lawless said.

At the commissioner’s work session last week, Wake Stone announced it would donate 170 acres of land to the town to use for the Naismith Park.

The company previously offered to donate that land when the town was considering an effort to build a destination soccer complex using money from the same fund.

The camp is expected to result in an average of about 52,000 hotel stays and $12.1 million in total economic impact each year for the next seven years.

Promising economic impact

According to projections provided by project developers, Knightdale’s project would outperform those in Morrisville and Holly Springs, which are also under consideration.

The Morrisville project is expected to have an annual impact of $4.5 million. The Holly Springs project will likely have an annual economic impact of about $6.8 million and generate 5,100 annual hotel visits a year.

By law, the county can only give the money to projects that boost local hotels and restaurants.

“There’s no rush to spend the $6 million,” Commissioners chairman Phil Matthews said. “If one meets the standards, then the rest of it stays right here until another (project) comes up.”

Wake County and the City of Raleigh each get $1 million per year from the occupancy and prepared food and beverage taxes — often referred to as hotel-motel taxes — collected in the county.

The city and county formed an agreement in 2004 in which the city can take more than its annual allotment of $1 million to fund the Raleigh Convention Center. But when it does, the county gets to take twice the excess amount. The provision took effect when the Convention Center opened in 2010.

Raleigh took extra funds in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The county is now taking proposals to spend its first payment of $6 million, which it received last fall.

The county took proposals last fall for ways to use the $6 million. A committee of staff and community members judged the proposals according to criteria set by the board, with economic impact being the top priority.

County money cannot make up more than 35 percent of any project’s funding, and no single project can receive more than $3 million. The money can be used only for capital expenses, not operating costs.

Staff writer Mechelle Hankerson contributed to this report.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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