Wake County Commissioners approve millions in funding toward sports and rec projects

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Thursday, April 20, 2023
Wake Co. Commissioners approve millions in sports, rec project funding
The Wake County Board of Commissioners has approved the use of $8.5 million of hospitality tax proceeds toward five sports and recreation projects.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County Board of Commissioners has approved the use of $8.5 million of hospitality tax proceeds toward five sports and recreation projects.

"When we have folks looking to consider moving to the area and businesses considering whether to move to the area, they're always looking at the quality of our schools. They're looking at parks and recreation amenities, cultural amenities, and so that's very important," said Wake County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Susan Evans during an interview Thursday at the future site of Pleasant Park in Apex, one of the five projects to receive money.

The funds, which would go toward Phase 2, call for the construction of four lit baseball/softball fields. The fields will have artificial turf, a field house with concessions, restrooms and officials locker rooms, four batting cages, and a 250-person shelter with restrooms. A town of Apex spokesperson told ABC11 that Phase 1 of the park is set to open this summer.

"It's a much needed add with the community growing the way it is, there's a constraint on the current facilities," said Ken Michalski, who owns Southern Peak Brewery in Apex.

The business sponsors an adult league softball team, and Michalski coaches youth baseball.

"With the youth baseball we have waiting lists for it as well. And it'd be great to have the extra four fields, it relieves constraint on the current fields," Michalski explained.

Another proposal receiving funding is an expansion to Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh.

"These funds will help us enclose this space right here so that we can create a brand new, exciting world class exhibit. It's going to be all about careers and jobs of the future," said CEO Jonathan Frederick.

On the second floor above the enclosed space will be an outdoor play space, with Frederick adding that there are plans to create a separate, outdoor play space free to the public in the courtyard outside the entrance.

"Public funding is the great equalizer, right? It helps us keep our prices affordable, but also it shows an investment in the institutions that make us what we are. Wake County does an incredible job supporting these projects. And a world class city, a world class county needs a world class children's museum. So this investment really helps us be what we want to be for the people who live here," Frederick said.

The museum welcomes nearly 700,000 guests a year and often sells out during the weekend, forcing some guests waiting to purchase tickets to be turned away.

"This will absolutely help us create more capacity to be able to allow more families and more school groups and community partners to come to Marbles," Frederick said.

The other three projects, which will receive funding, include an athletic field complex in Wendell, a recreation facility in Holly Springs, and a park in Garner.

According to slides released by Wake County, the athletic field complex in Wendell will include five multipurpose fields (two grass, three turf), field house and maintenance facilities, picnic shelters, walking trails, with concessions and restrooms on-site.

Cass Holt Road Park in Holly Springs would include the construction of an indoor recreation center and athletic park. The recreation center would include four basketball courts and eight volleyball courts, while the park includes two multipurpose turf, life fields. Amenities would include locker rooms, concessions, two outdoor basketball courts, six outdoor pickleball courts, and a large gathering plaza.

Phase 1 of Yeargan Park Phase in Garner includes the construction of four multipurpose fields - two natural grass and two turf, with light for all fields, as well as a picnic shelter with restrooms, playscape, and viewing terrace.

Evans explained funding for the projects has been collected over the past four years.

"We did not make an allocation during the COVID-19 (pandemic). Normally we do one every two to three years, so we have a little bit larger pot than usual," said Evans, who added that respective municipalities are responsible for the remaining money needed for each project.