Prince William’s Co. proposed $140M sports complex facing an uncertain future

A proposal for a $100 million-plus indoor sports facility in Prince William County faces a fraught future that a majority of elected officials seem unable to rally around.

This article was republished with permission from WTOP news partner InsideNoVa.com. Subscribe to Sign up for your free email from InsideNoVa.com today.

Prince William’s Co. proposed $140M sports complex facing an uncertain future
Prince William County is considering developing a $100 million-plus indoor athletics facility. (Courtesy MEB)

A proposal for a $100 million-plus indoor sports facility in Prince William County faces a fraught future that a majority of elected officials seem unable to rally around.

The County Board of Supervisors has given staff permission to finalize the purchase of the $15 million Woodbridge property that is currently under contract by the county. The original proposal for the property was a national destination for sports and other types of events, as well as a local center for use by sporting organizations.

But it’s not clear the board has the support needed to approve the sports complex, as concerns abound about the project’s $140 million price tag. Board Chair DeShondra Jefferson, the only Democrat skeptical of the proposal and potential swing vote, said during Tuesday’s board meeting that she would not support the project in its current form. Likewise, Republicans rejected the plan.

“Despite the expectations and everything we put in, I still have my doubts,” Jefferson said. “I mean, how many of these projects are really making money? And we’re making a significant public investment — people’s tax money… I understand and respect the families who want to see this in our county, but I’m not behind it. This project in its current form does not have my vote.” .

The Democratic majority on the board was largely supportive of the development of the sports complex. They say it will be a boon to the growing community and provide young athletes with a modern facility close to home in which they can train and compete. They also described it as a potential driver of economic activity in the surrounding area. .

But without the support of Jefferson and the Republicans, Democrats would not be able to secure the majority needed to approve the plan.

However, Jefferson eventually joined members of her party in supporting the purchase of the land, as the county could still use the site for other purposes. Jefferson said last week that she was “not at liberty” to disclose other potential uses for the property that are in talks among county officials.

Coles Supervisor Wesley Vega, Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir and Brentsville Supervisor Tom Gordy, all Republicans, opposed purchasing the land.

The multi-use facility, which could be the largest of its kind in the Washington area, is proposed at 13505 Telegraph Road along Interstate 95, which officials say is ideal for attracting clients for large events across the East Coast. The facility will feature a hydraulic running track, hard-surface courts used for basketball and pickleball, and space for conferences or other events.

Projections from consultants retained by the county show that if the facility is approved, it would become profitable by its third year of use, generating more than $400,000 in revenue for the county that is expected to grow marginally in subsequent years. But that projection doesn’t take into account the debt service fees the county would be on the line, and the facility would be operating in the red at taxpayer expense for its first two years of operation.

The board has so far spent $1 million to allow recreation officials to begin talks with several contractors to flesh out the proposal. It also represents an agreement reached with the current property owner of the Telegraph Road site, Belno, LLC, to continue sales negotiations.

The land purchase will close next month, Seth Hendler Voss, director of the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department, who spearheaded the proposal, said Friday.

Officials noted that the facility’s closest major competitor would be a similar location in Virginia Beach and Spooky Nook Sports, the nation’s largest indoor sports facility located outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was recently revealed that the Virginia Beach facility is facing millions of dollars in debt. Virginia Beach officials have since offloaded the city facility to the buyer.

Supporters of the project, including Prince William Economic Development Director Christina Wynn, said it would become a major part of sports tourism for the province and serve as a catalyst for further development in the area. The surrounding area is ripe for additional hotel development that could serve the more than 60,000 visitors a year the sports complex is expected to attract, Wynn said.

Officials say the expected rise in sports tourism will also help boost small businesses in the county as parents travel to their children’s sporting events and spend money on meals and merchandise while staying nearby, sometimes for days at a time.

The county held a number of town hall-style meetings to get input from residents on the proposal. Its supporters include high school student athletes, an Olympic gold medalist in track, local coaches, sports league organizers and members of the pickleball community. Many public school student-athletes, coaches and parents have spoken of the long travel times they endure to attend track meets due to the lack of a nearby facility.

The County Council in 2019 considered creating an indoor sports complex as part of a parks bond referendum program, but the proposal ultimately stalled over cost concerns.

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