Morrisville hopes for county funding

aramos@newsobserver.comJuly 18, 2013 

— From a Civil War memorial park to a cricket field, town leaders are considering several potential projects that could be funded by county tourism money.

Wake County has about $6 million available for projects that would bring in out-of-towners who stay in local hotels.

Municipalities have to compete for the money – up to $3 million for a project.. So far, officials from Knightdale, Holly Springs and Morrisville have said they plan to apply.

Morrisville contributes more than $2 million a year in tourism revenue to the county’s major facilities fund. The town is the county’s third largest contributor, behind Raleigh and Cary.

This month, the Morrisville Town Council reviewed four possible ways to spend the money: RTP Park, Cedar Fork District Park, a Civil War battleground park or a multi-purpose sports complex.

The council is expected to discuss the options further on Tuesday.

Morrisville Town Councilwoman Liz Johnson said she wants to consider the long-term and recurring expenses of each project.

“There’s not one I prefer,” she said. “I’m still open to understand the value of each one of them.”

Town Councilman Steve Rao said the RTP Park project might make the most sense, because the town has already invested in it, and it would be unique to the Triangle.

Plans for RTP Park call for 25 acres of space, including a multi-purpose field that would double as the area’s first regulation-size cricket field.

The tourism money could be used to buy land and to add bleachers, parking and an irrigation system.

Durham and Raleigh have cricket fields, but they are not regulation size, according to the Triangle Cricket League. The nearest full-size cricket field is in Winterville in Pitt County.

Cricket has proven to be a draw for Morrisville, where the youth cricket league has seen major growth. More than 150 kids have participated over three seasons.

This weekend, the sport was expected to bring to Morrisville hundreds of children and their families from California, Florida, Georgia and New Jersey for the USA Cricket Association’s Under-13 National Invitational Tournament.

Teams played at Shiloh Cricket Ground at Church Street and Barbee Road and at Cedar Fork District Park.

Other options

Or Morrisville could use the county money to expand Cedar Fork District Park.

Town officials have focused the past few years on spending available bond money to design RTP Park, which is expected to cost between $2 million to $4 million to build. Little money is expected to be left over for other park projects.

At Cedar Fork, money could go toward new baseball fields, , parking lots, a field-house facility, shelters, an irrigation system or maybe field lighting.

Or Morrisville could enter a public-private partnership to create a multi-sport complex off McCrimmon Parkway to house ice hockey, ice skating, gymnastics and volleyball.

The final possibility, a Civil War battleground park with a visitors’ center and museum, is also under consideration.

Towns compete

To receive funding, projects must meet an unmet need in the county, address inadequate facilities or future needs and have an economic impact on hotels and restaurants.

Wake County Commissioners approved criteria for the grants at their Monday meeting.

To be selected, at least 65 percent of funding for a project must come from somewhere else.

Holly Springs wants some of the county money for the North Main Athletic Complex, a project that could cost $10 million to $11 million and be home to a collegiate summer-league baseball team.

“We feel like we’ve got a really good project,” said Chuck Simmons, interim town manager for Holly Springs.

Knightdale wants to use some of the money to build a soccer complex with seating for 1,000 people. The project could cost between $7 million and $12 million.

In Morrisville, town leaders are hoping their town will be chosen.

“We are finally due our share,” Johnson said.

Staff writer Andrew Kenney contributed to this report.

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Ramos: 919-460-2609

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