WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington city leaders heard for the first time this week the framework of acquiring the Cape Fear Regional Soccer Park.
This all goes back to 2016 when the city approved a major bond that involved the Wilmington waterfront park as well as a $10 million appropriation for an athletic facility. The city says since then several options have come before them, but those did not score the winning goal.
This past weekend, the Wilmington Hammerheads hosted a tournament on the site next to the Duke Energy Sutton Plant in conjunction with five other fields across Wilmington. Executive Director Carson Porter says it brought nearly 300 teams to the region. The Hammerheads host a youth soccer program currently on the site and have done so for well over a decade according to the city.
“These kids and families are coming from Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and some in Virginia and South Carolina,” said Porter.
The soccer club has been working with the city for roughly 2 years to see this partnership take shape according to Porter. Over the last year, the city conducted an environmental analysis of the site.
The fields were once the Flemington landfill in the 1970’s and was one of the first brownfiled agreement sites sanctioned in the state according to the city. It is more than 60 acres with a little more than 30 developed with soccer and athletics fields including small facilities. Porter says having the city come in would mean permanent lavatories, paved parking and field lighting. All of which were too costly for the non-profit to afford according to Porter.
“What we can do with double the size is 14 or 15 plus fields is we can really, we can pitch big events, big national events to come here in Wilmington,” Porter said. “And so that 300, that 275 team tournament that we did this weekend, that could be doubled.”
“If we don’t have to buy the land, which would be by far the largest cost then that would just leave us with a lot more for bathrooms, bleachers, parking and all those things that you would put for multi-purpose fields and not just soccer things like lacrosse which is also in big demand,” said city spokesperson Malissa Talbert.
The agreement would work out that the Hammerheads would transfer the land to the city, the city would pay for the improvements and the soccer club would manage it over time.
“I would make this analogous with the city’s arrangement with the YMCA with the public pools,” said Amy Beatty, the community services director for Wilmington.
The city would get 100% of the revenue for the first two years, paying $225,000 in management fees to the club, and then the two groups would split revenue 50/50 after two years. Beatty told city leaders that the management fee still costs $100,000 less than what the cost would be for the city to manage a similar site.
A sports complex advisory board would be established under the agreement. City council would appoint it and the city says it’s purpose would be to, “promote diverse and equitable use by the interested sports groups.”
City staff recommended that the council vote on an agreement during their July council meeting.