South Charlotte

County OKs $7 million for Sportsplex

The Matthews Sportsplex is viable again now that Mecklenburg County commissioners have approved a list of bond projects to be funded in 2011-12.

The Sportsplex has been allocated $7 million of the $156 million in bonds commissioners plan to sell this year.

The $34 million project, in the planning stages for almost a decade, was approved by Mecklenburg County voters in 2004 and 2008. The county committed $32 million and the town of Matthews committed $2 million to build the Sportsplex.

Construction was set to begin in January 2008 but the economy deteriorated and the project was never started.

The $7 million will be used to complete Phase 1, which will include five fields and a portion of the road. Based on the county's current capital improvement plan, the remainder of the bond money, $25 million, is scheduled to be available in 2013.

When completed, the Sportsplex will include 12 fields and a 2,700-seat stadium. The 160-acre site, designed to be a regional park, also will contain amenities such as open space, green areas, walking trails, a cross country course, playgrounds and more.

The facility will be county-owned and operated.

The Sportsplex will be off Interstate 485 near the Independence Boulevard interchange, behind the Ashley Furniture Store. The facility will be adjacent to 120 acres of privately held land the town hopes to see developed as a mixed-use family entertainment complex. That complex would be developed privately and include hotels, restaurants, shops and other family friendly venues.

Last year, when it looked like the Sportsplex wouldn't be funded for a number of years, the town hired consultants from the Centralina Council of Government to study both the public and private portions of the project to see if it was something in which a private developer might be interested.

"After studying the plans, CCOG said that, with the current economy, the banks aren't likely to loan money and developers would probably not be interested at this time. We're very excited that the county has picked the ball back up and are going to build Phase 1," said Matthews Town Manager Hazen Blodgett.