When our grandkids from eastern North Carolina come for a visit, one place they always want to go is Belmont’s Stowe Park.
They love the playground or just running around and occasionally getting to wave at a passing train.
Located in downtown Belmont, Stowe Park is a centerpiece for activity.
Someday we’ll probably take our grandkids over to east Belmont to see the $1.275 million soccer park now under construction on Brook Street.
Sitting on 7 acres of city-owned land, the new park will have two full-size fields, a playground, picnic shelter, half-mile asphalt walking track, restrooms and a parking lot.
Not only is this Belmont’s first soccer park, it’s the city’s first new park in 40 years. It probably will be one of the busiest.
As in most other places, soccer is big in Belmont. About 400 young people are in the city’s soccer program, along with an adult league, and teams have been sharing baseball and softball fields; beginning in spring 2014, soccer teams will have their own fields at the new Gantt Park.
“It will be a really nice facility,” said Parks and Recreation Director Sallie Stevenson. “I’m sure everybody will be proud of it.”
Groundbreaking for the park was March 15. The builder is Morlando Construction LLC of Charlotte, and the designer is WK Dickson & Co. Inc. of Charlotte.
Bulldozers are hard at work at the site, which the city acquired in a 2007 land swap. It’s centrally located and near Frady and Rodden fields.
The park is named for longtime youth athletic leader Everette “Ebb” Gantt. Gantt, who died in 1996, was general manager of WCGC Radio in Belmont.
He also was a local sports legend.
A football player at Belmont High School, he went on to become a boxer, landing in the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame. According to the group’s website, Gantt had a record of 16 wins, three losses and one draw as an amateur boxer before turning pro. “However, Gantt enjoyed his greatest success as a coach at the Belmont Boys Club from 1952 to 1956,” the website stated. One of his star pupils was H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Stevenson said Gantt was involved in local youth sports for more than 60 years, and that he was a mentor to Mick Nixon, announcer for the Carolina Panthers, and Woody Durham, “The Voice of the Tar Heels.”
Winner of the prestigious J. Robert Marlowe Merit Sportscaster Award, Gantt was a former president of the North Carolina Broadcasters Association. Known as “The Voice of the South Point Red Raiders,” he’s also in the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame.
Lots of activity
There’s a lot going on these days in eastern Gaston. The big, new Stuart W. Cramer High School is progressing in Cramerton.
If you’ve crossed the South Fork on Wilkinson Boulevard lately, you’ve noticed the major earth-moving that’s going on there for a luxury-apartment project named South Fork Village.
Mount Holly recently doubled the size of its River Street Park on Dutchman’s Creek, adding 3 acres. And eight residences in the nearby River Street neighborhood were rehabilitated through Community Development Block Grant funds.
Belmont’s soccer park is just a few blocks from the Catawba River, where the city plans to build its first riverfront park in summer or fall 2014.
Design work for the park will be completed this year. Phase one will have a playground and areas for picnicking and walking and observing the river. The site for this phase is in a little cove that’s not deep enough for fishing.
The city is trying to acquire more land, and canoe and kyak access points will be added in a future phase.
Right now, folks are referring to it as the riverpark. That may or may not be official.
May 3 is the deadline to submit a nomination for naming the riverpark. Applications are available at City Hall, the parks and recreation office or online at www.cityofbelmont.org.
The Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Board will review the entries and make a recommendation to the Belmont City Council.
Gantt Park will be Belmont’s sixth park. All are linked by sidewalks, an important feature in a city that prides itself on walkability.
The riverfront park will be a key addition to this recreational network. It’s a project that’s been talked about for years and hopefully is getting closer to reality.
From Stowe Park to Gantt Park to the Catawba River – I’m already looking forward to this walk.
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