Sports complex gets nod

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Supervisors’ vote unanimous

By Diana McFarland

News editor

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a request Thursday to contribute $250,000 to the proposed sports complex in Smithfield.

The approval solidifies a $2 million contribution from former Smithfield Foods President Joseph W. Luter III, who wanted a commitment from the county before releasing the funds.

Luter also requested a brick entrance wall and that the complex be named after his father, Joseph W. Luter Jr.

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Smithfield Foods is pitching in $1 million and the town of Smithfield purchased the 100-acre property for $775,000. The Smithfield Recreation Association plans to sell its Beale Park property and use the proceeds as part of its contribution, as well as host fundraisers for additional money. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight County will create a memorandum of agreement concerning the payment schedule and maintenance details, said interim County Administrator Sanford “Sandy” Wanner. If the county experiences a budget surplus, the extra funds can be used to pay down the obligation sooner, Wanner said, and suggested a five-year payment schedule. Wanner said the money will come from the operating budget, would not add to the existing debt and not be taken from reserves.

The fields, which will allow for baseball, softball, soccer and football, are to be located on the former Little farm next to Westside Elementary School. The facility will also include an indoor turf field.

Smithfield Town Council member Milton Cook said the facility could be used as a selling point to future tenants of the intermodal park.

“This is so much bigger than Smithfield,” he said.

Also speaking in favor of the project was Windsor Athletic Association President Jamie Holt, Duke Van Selow with Pop Warner Youth Football and Rosa Turner with the Rushmere Community Development Corporation.

Currently struggling with limited public facilities for Pop Warner in Isle of Wight, Van Selow said, “We have no where to go. We have no home.”

“It is an unbelievable investment for the future,” he said, adding that the revenue generated from the complex would be substantial.

Albert Burckard, representing the Isle of Wight Historical Society, asked that the historic house located on the property of the proposed complex, the circa 1842 Wombwell cottage, not be torn down, as proposed by the town.

Burckard also asked that an archaeological survey be done on the property, which includes a cemetery as well as a suspected slave graveyard.

Later Burckard said the Historical Society proposes that the house not be moved, but perhaps become the office or headquarters for the sports complex.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said that he had more than 800 responses to his survey on the sports complex and 91 percent were in favor.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said the public input over the past month was “amazing.”

Board Chairman Rex Alphin, who initially had reservations about investing taxpayer funds in the project, said, “my vision has expanded.”

Jefferson, who voted for the complex despite earlier objections, was concerned about the level of diversity the facility would attract, including senior citizens.

“What are we going to do for the other neighborhoods that don’t have anything?,” he said.  {/mprestriction}