HOLLY SPRINGS — A hired firm’s report has laid the path forward for a multi-million-dollar municipal athletics park that could include a baseball stadium.
To gauge interest in the town project, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions interviewed 52 “community and business leaders,” including all six members of the Holly Springs Town Council. The firm received $22,500 for the task.
Their conclusion: Holly Springs could raise between $2 and $5 million from private donors to supplement government funding for the North Main Street athletic facility. The town may sell naming rights for parts of the park; another $2 million could come from the 2011 parks bonds approved by voters.
And with the cards on the table, Mayor Dick Sears says he’s interested in pursuing the full-scale stadium plan.
Draft plans for the facility have included a baseball stadium to host collegiate summer games with the Coastal Plain League, a Miracle League field, two soccer fields, nine tennis courts, a community center and a playground, all on up to 43 acres south of Easton Street and North Main Street.
However, the results of Convergent’s interviews don’t confirm that all that will be possible.
Respondents largely shot down the town’s goal of raising $8 million, and they ranked a new stadium as the lowest priority, compared to the other park plans. Only about 30 percent of the interviewees said the town “needed” the stadium, while about 23 percent said the idea was on target but “needed refinement.”
A proposal to build soccer fields was much more popular, with more than 80 percent of the interviewees calling them a necessity. A tennis proposal also broke 60 percent.
Besides elected officials, the interviewees included business owners, restaurateurs, real-estate professionals and representatives of major developers and larger companies such as Novartis.
Andy Coe, a principal for Convergent, downplayed the spread of opinions, instead arguing that the entire plan had community support.
“As a whole, most all the components tested extremely well. There were just some people that were extremely passionate about soccer, tennis,” he said. “There wasn’t really one component where people said, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ ”
The town hasn’t put a price tag on its plans, but it’s obvious that Holly Springs will need private help to build everything on the blueprints.
“I think most people know that the town doesn’t have a blank check to go write for the entire park,” Coe said.
In its interviews, Convergent found “28 indications of financial support,” from “very small” to “very big.” Five interviewees said they could make a donation of more than $100,000, but none promised more than $1 million.
Just more than 50 percent of respondents said they would play a “leadership role” in the campaign, while more said they would “open doors.”
All that in mind, Convergent officially recommended pursuing a campaign for $2 to $2.5 million in private donations, but the company says a higher goal is feasible.
“This is really conservative,” Coe told the Town Council. “There’s actually a ton of upside potential.”
The next stage for the park, Convergent recommended, is to begin planning a capital campaign. That could include calculating detailed budget numbers for the park, gathering public input, setting prices for naming, recruiting volunteers and finding investors.
“It’s my desire and my hope that we do move ahead with the North Main project, and do all the things that’s on the plan,” Sears said. “What we’re looking for is some private funding, and that’s going to take a while.”
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary