The Prince William Board of County Supervisors allocated funding to advance a proposed multimillion dollar indoor athletics facility.
The facility, which could be the largest of its kind in Northern Virginia, would feature an indoor pool, a hydraulic running track and hard-surface courts. It’s projected to cost more than $100 million at the proposed location of 13505 Telegraph Road in Woodbridge along the Interstate 95 corridor.
The nearly $1 million the board voted to expend will allow recreation officials to begin talks with engineering firm MEB General Contractors to flesh out the proposal. It also accounts for an agreement reached with the site’s property owner, Belno, LLC, to further sale negotiations. According to staff documents, the land parcel could cost the county $16 million.
The county would be on the hook for financing the project, for which a definitive price tag is uncertain. The $100 million estimate provided by the developer does not include the cost of the land that will need to be purchased to make way for the facility unless officials look elsewhere to build. A $40 million parking garage, which may be needed, was also not included in the pricing estimate.
The vote fell along party lines, with the board’s Democratic majority of Chair Ann Wheeler, Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Franklin, Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye and Neabsco Supervisor Victor Angry supporting funding toward the proposal. Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega, Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, and Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir – all Republicans – opposed it.
Democrats say the facility would be a boon for the growing community and provide youth athletes a state-of-the-art facility located close to home for them to train and compete in. They also touted it as a potential driver of economic activity for the surrounding area.
“There are other land-use cases that have been very controversial here in this county, and people say, ‘Well, we need to move away from some of those items,’” Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Franklin said. “Well, this is another way that we can do that if we’re smart about it.”
Republicans dismissed the plan as a potentially perpetual money suck that may not ever pay for itself. They pointed to a similar facility constructed in Virginia Beach that was recently revealed to be facing debts in the millions of dollars. Virginia Beach officials are currently considering offloading the city’s facility onto a potential buyer, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
“If we’re going to paint this as an opportunity for the athletes – and I don’t disagree with that – then let’s make it what it is: an athletic facility,” Weir said. “But to sit here and paint it, or disguise it, as an economic development driver is foolish. Experience dictates that.”
Prince William allocating the funding to further investigate the feasibility of such a project will allow the county to determine its fiscal impact more precisely and how it could be paid for, Democrats argued.
The Prince William board previously held a public comment session to solicit input from residents on the proposal. Those who spoke – including high school student athletes, an Olympic gold medalist in track, local coaches, sports league organizers and members of the pickleball community – endorsed the project. Several public school student-athletes and coaches spoke of the lengthy travel times they endure to attend track meets since there isn’t a facility nearby.
The proposal states the developer intends to meet with Prince William County Public Schools officials to provide opportunities to host sports competitions and events both on weekends and weekdays. Other youth sports groups, including wrestling and soccer, are also mentioned as potential users of the facility.
Beyond sports, the developer said the complex could be used for events like conventions, trade shows, graduations, and community meetings.
The board in 2019 considered an indoor sports complex as part of a bond referendum program for parks, but the proposal ultimately died because of cost concerns.
INSIDENOVA · By Ben Peters, email@example.com · Nov 29, 2023