HOLLY SPRINGS — A baseball franchise is set to call Holly Springs home. Under a ready-to-ink deal, a collegiate summer league team would play out of the town’s proposed multi-million dollar baseball stadium.
For more than a year, draft plans for an 1,800-seat facility have bounced around town hall. Now the project’s nearly sure to happen; the Holly Springs Town Council gave its unanimous approval on Tuesday for the overall stadium plan and the baseball contract.
All of this took shape early in 2012, when the Coastal Plain League, which operates in the Carolinas and Virginia, proposed a franchise for Holly Springs. That pitch quickly gained momentum, becoming the $5-million athletic stadium proposed today.
“If we didn’t have the Coastal Plain League and their investment into the project, we would not be dreaming of a stadium,” said Len Bradley, director of parks and recreation for Holly Springs. “It’d be nowhere in our plans.”
The multi-sport stadium off North Main Street could be ready for use by summer of 2015, and the Coastal Plain League franchise would take up residence immediately. The North Main Athletic Complex, to be located near Anchor Creek Way, also will host soccer fields, tennis courts, a cut-through access road and, possibly, a smaller special-needs field, at a total cost of about $10 million.
As a whole, the project is a step in a new direction for the town’s recreation system: It will be the first town facility meant more for watching than participating, and the star of the show will be the new baseball team. Coastal Plain League teams host rosters of unpaid college players for summer seasons, creating a “professional minor-league” feel, according to its website. The league, which fielded 14 teams in its 17th season this year, already is headquartered in Holly Springs.
“This is going to be your community’s gathering place, and that’s what the Coastal Plain League brings to Holly Springs,” said Matt DeMargel, an employee of 919 Marketing, speaking on behalf of the league.
Several other municipalities already have built multi-million dollar stadiums, hoping for a boost to town culture and an influx of spending at local businesses. Cary has the Carolina RailHawks professional soccer team, while Durham has the Bulls.
The league has estimated it will bring almost $1 million of spending to local vendors each year while attracting a sum audience of 100,000 people. The team would play about 40 home games per year.
For the use of the stadium, the as-yet-unnamed team would pay $850,000 over a decade. The two parties have agreed that the baseball team will pay for game staff, such as ushers, and post-event clean-up, while the town will pay for electric, water and sewer services.
The first phase of the athletic complex – not including the stadium –would be built with about $5 million of already-approved recreation bonds. The stadium, meanwhile, would be funded by $1.5 million of the existing bonds and an estimated $4 million of debt financing.
Town staff are optimistic that they’ll be able to cover much of the construction cost by renting the complex to sports leagues, such as the CPL, while selling naming rights. In all, interest payments on that new debt could total about $163,000 per year over 15 years, plus $42,000 in annual operating costs.
A bit of civic pride also could be at stake. The name of the local team, according to the memorandum of understanding, will begin with the words “Holly Springs.”
“I’d rather just annex the New York Mets,” Sears said. “But if it comes to pass, then I want Carlos Rodon as our pitcher.”
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary