What cost to play ball?

Published 12:28 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Williams: budget for ball fields will evolve over time

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The town of Smithfield is building a multi-million dollar sports complex but it does not know how much it will cost to operate the facility once it is completed.

“I don’t have a clue … you have to go through the learning process. Like a new pair of shoes,” said Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams on how much it will cost to operate the $4 million Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex.

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Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Musick said the town will most likely have to run the sports facility for a year before it can begin to determine what its annual costs will be. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“That’s still an unknown,” she said, citing the same open question as to whether the facility will be self-sufficient or not.

Smithfield Recreation Association is set to lease the facility but the rent amount is still undetermined, Musick said.

Revenue projections for the sports complex are another unknown, Musick said.

That depends on the number of tournaments scheduled and what the fees will be, she said.

Musick said she’s called on similar facilities to see what they charge, but so far, there are no hard numbers.

Williams said he’s confident the complex will be self-supporting.

“I feel it,” he said.

Questions submitted to Smithfield Town Council member and finance committee chairman Randy Pack concerning a business plan for the sports complex and how the operating costs will be covered did not receive a response by press time.

As for the cost of operating the Windsor Castle Manor House as a wedding venue once it is renovated, Musick said she’s developed a draft of the revenue and expenses, but it needs to be taken to the Town Council for review.  

“Since we are more than a year out, at best, from completing the restoration project, I feel it is premature to discuss fees and revenue streams until we have a firm date on when the property will once again be ready to rent for events,” said Musick in an email.

When it came to what the town would charge guests at the manor house, Musick initially said the town would charge $4,000 for a weekend, and then upon second thought, said it might be $5,000.

Currently, the Smithfield Town Council is eyeing possible tax increases to pay the debt service it incurred when it took out loans to initiate both projects. Possible tax hikes could include real estate, personal property, charging for garbage collection or raising the fee for business licenses.

Musick said she wants to hire two employees to oversee the town’s parks, but there is only money in the budget for one. So, during fiscal 2018, a parks supervisor will be hired at a salary range of $45,726 to $70,875. No funds will be available immediately to hire a parks maintenance assistant. That position, when it gets funded, will pay $26,735 to $41,439.

A few years ago, Isle of Wight County began including potential operating costs, as well as potential revenue, for newly proposed capital projects.

Indeed, the Government Finance Officers Association advises government entities to consider the operating cost of a new capital project, such as a sports complex.

According to the GFOA, the operating impact of a capital project can “impose significant consequences upon the operating budget” of a locality.

The GFOA recommends that governments discuss and qualify the operating impact of capital projects in its budget document.

Williams said that despite the uncertainty over operating costs, the sports complex will be a “win-win” for the town once tournament participants begin to arrive.

It will bring more people to town to spend money, he said.

In addition to the town’s $775,000 contribution to the sports complex, Smithfield Foods contributed $1 million, Joseph W. Luter III donated $2 million and Farmers Bank donated $175,000. Isle of Wight County is poised to contribute $250,000 and Smithfield Recreation Association has offered to sell its Beale Park property and provide those proceeds to the project.

For the manor house, Smithfield Foods contributed $1 million and the town is pledging $2 million.

The sports complex will be used primarily by SRA, but other entities, such as Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation, will have some level of access. 

Williams said operating costs aside, the town was obligated to build the sports complex.

The town was looking at a “gift horse” in the mouth, said Williams of the facility.

“Are we supposed to throw this out the window?”  {/mprestriction}