Morrisville considers athletic complex

aramos@newsobserver.comAugust 16, 2013 

This is a rendering of a potential sports complex. Morrisville is considering a public-private partnership with a developer to build the complex, which could include an ice rink with up to 2,000 seats.

NEW CITY DESIGN GROUP

— A developer wants to build an indoor athletic complex in Morrisville that could host hockey competitions and become a practice site for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Jeff Ammons is the developer and owner of Wake Forest’s The Factory, which features an ice rink, a YMCA, sports-themed businesses, a toy store and more.

For a few years, Ammons has planned a similar project in western Wake County.

Now he has proposed a public-private partnership with the town of Morrisville to build a complex that could include two ice rinks and volleyball courts with 1,500 to 2,000 seats for spectators.

“This would be the premier sports place in the region,” Ammons told the Town Council on Tuesday.

Morrisville could target the complex to receive up to $3 million in tourism money from Wake County. Hill Carrow, CEO of Cary-based Sports & Properties Inc., volunteered to help the town identify potential projects for the money, which local towns compete to receive.

Carrow said the plan could be Morrisville’s best chance to get the grant money. Town leaders are also considering a proposal to make upgrades to the future RTP Park site and Cedar Fork District Park.

Ammons said he would need about 15 to 20 acres to build the sports complex he envisions. A promising potential site, he said, is near the future RTP Park off Church Street.

The Carolina Hurricanes have expressed interest in using the complex as practice space, Ammons said. The facility could also train student-athletes, he added.

But without the grant money from the county, Ammons said he might not bring the project to Morrisville. Carrow said the company was also considering a site in Cary.

Morrisville Town Councilwoman Margaret Broadwell said she liked the idea of a partnership with Ammons. Under such a deal, the town would help with the zoning and permitting process.

“If you have partners, then chances are that partner is going to want to promote it,” she said. “My eggs are all in the basket of the public-private partnership at this point.”

Ammons has entered into such partnerships before. The Factory Kids Foundation received about $1.5 million in Wake County tourism money to build seven athletic fields.

Carrow also knows the ropes when it comes to getting the grant money. He helped Cary receive $10 million to add more seating at WakeMed Soccer Park, expand the USA Baseball National Training Complex and add 12 indoor courts at Cary Tennis Park.

“I have been involved in every grant cycle,” Carrow said. “I’m very familiar with the process and what it takes.”

Morrisville is likely to face stiff competition from other towns, including Holly Springs, which wants to build a multimillion-dollar stadium to host a collegiate summer-league team.

Carrow said he is familiar with some other potential projects throughout the county. He said the proposed Morrisville complex “has the potential to be a more substantial draw for sports tourism,” partly because it would be the only ice rink with substantial seating.

Room for crowds could draw competitions for hockey, speed skating and even curling, Carrow said.

Councilman Mark Stohlman said the town would need to work out a lot of details, including long-term costs.

A private partner such as Ammons would ease some of financial burden for the town – the county grant would require that 65 percent of project costs would come from other sources.

“There’s no such thing as free money, especially when it comes with increased operating costs,” Stohlman said. “We have to weigh the impact not only of the benefit to the town, but can we afford it?”

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Ramos: 919-460-2609

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