Sportsplex construction could start in June

County to choose construction company May 15, host ground breaking May 17

by Josh Whitener

After years of planning and waiting, the new Mecklenburg County sportsplex in Matthews is close to becoming a reality.

The county received construction bids for the sportsplex – to be located at 1601 Tanktown Road near Interstate 485 – from 12 construction firms. County commissioners are expected to vote on hiring the lowest bidder, Denver, N.C.-based Eagle Wood Inc., at their meeting Tuesday, May 15.

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Thursday, May 17, at the future construction site off Tanktown Road.

Officials involved in the project are excited to take this first step toward their goal and are ready to dive in once they get the green light from the county commissioners.

“I’m extremely thrilled that we’re actually at this point in the project,” Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said. “It’s great to have a groundbreaking, and it will be wonderful to have a ribbon-cutting (ceremony) when it’s actually finished.”

County officials are eager to partner with the town for the complex.

“We’re very excited about the partnership with the Town of Matthews,” said Lee Jones, division director for capital planning services with the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department. “We think that there will be strong positive economic impact.”

The first phase of the project will include five synthetic soccer fields, restrooms, a concession building, road infrastructure, parking spaces and lighting. Current plans for the entire sportsplex include 12 soccer fields, a large stadium built to seat 2,700 people, trails, picnic shelters and other amenities. The entire project will cost an estimated $32 to $34 million, Jones said.

If approved, Eagle Wood’s bid of $3,019,875 will launch the first phase of the project, and construction could start as early as June, Jones said. The first phase could be completed by late spring 2013 and officials hope to have funding secured for the second phase of the project by the next fiscal year.

County commissioners voted in July to sell up to $100 million in bonds, ending the county’s self-imposed “debt diet” implemented as a result of the recession. Of that total, the sportsplex project will receive $7 million. The project was approved by Mecklenburg County voters in 2004 and 2008. Construction was originally scheduled to begin in January 2008.

Matthews has committed to give

$2 million to the project, although town officials aren’t sure how or when the money will be spent.

“We’re okay with fronting it early,” Taylor said. “We’re open to discussion on that, and we’re eager to get the project underway and even more eager to actually get it completed.”

One change Taylor would like to see in the plans is an expansion of the stadium. Taylor hopes the sportsplex can be a site that attracts major sporting events, such as NCAA soccer games, men’s and women’s lacrosse games and special events with the Charlotte Eagles professional soccer team.

“We’d like to see at least 4,000 (seats),” Taylor said. “But in order to capture NCAA tournaments, the minimum number we really need is 6,000 to 7,000.”

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