After closed-door discussion, Smithfield commits $1 million for Luter Sports Complex expansion

Published 6:02 pm Thursday, October 20, 2022

Smithfield’s Town Council has authorized up to $1 million to expand and upgrade the Joseph W. Luter Jr. Sports Complex on West Main Street.

The vote followed a closed session to discuss “contract negotiations” on Oct. 5.

According to Mayor Carter Williams, the work will entail adding three to four new baseball or softball fields and additional bathrooms and concession stands.

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The $4 million athletic park opened in 2018. It already has a concession stand and bathrooms located central to an existing baseball field and three softball fields, but the building is 750 feet away from the park’s football field. The new concession stands and bathrooms would be located closer to the football field and would serve the new baseball and softball fields, Williams said.

The $4 million park, named for former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III’s father, opened in 2018. Donations from Luter III and Farmers Bank, combined with taxpayer dollars from Isle of Wight County and the town, funded its construction.

According to Williams, the town has received a new $3 million “private donation” to fund the upgrades, but the offer is conditioned on the town putting up $1 million of taxpayer money.

The council voted to accept the offer and move forward with the upgrades following a closed session on Oct. 5 to discuss “contract negotiations.”

Following the same closed session, the council also voted that evening to commit up to $1.4 million toward moving the Smithfield Farmers Market to Luter III’s proposed “Grange at 10Main” development at Route 10 and Main Street. Luter has offered land and a $1 million contribution toward building a permanent home for the market, conditioned on the town and county jointly raising another $2.7 million.

Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said he was unaware of any similar cost-sharing proposal being presented to the county for the proposed Luter Sports Complex upgrades. The athletic park is a town-owned facility.

Williams declined to say whether Luter III was also the private donor offering the $3 million for the Luter Sports Complex upgrades.

Even with the vote on record, it will be a “long ways to go” before construction of the new fields, concession stands or bathrooms begins, Williams said. The next step, he said, is for the town to hire an engineering firm.

“That’s what we’re after right now,” Williams said.

Earlier this year, the council voted to put a portion of its $3.4 million in remaining COVID-19 relief funds it had received via the federal American Rescue Plan Act toward installing lights for the park’s football field. The lights are now in place.