Watauga County commissioners might now be eyeing university property to be included in its plan for a possible revamped recreation center at the county’s current swim complex off State Farm Road.
During a presentation by an engineering firm on the feasibility of constructing such a site at the current swim complex and adjoining facilities, which was the board’s original intent, Chairman Jimmy Hodges took the conversation into an entirely different direction.
While contemplating the feasibility of the proposed location, which will require further examination through a civil engineer study, Hodges recommended the county’s pursuit of the former Lowe’s warehouse building located between the fire department and the tennis courts as a possible inclusion in a new recreation complex.
The property is currently owned by Appalachian State University.
“I know this might be a far-fetched idea, but I want to explore the possibility of ownership of that property,” Hodges said. “The Lowe’s property would be a natural fit to have that included as part of the recreation center. If we think about the new school of nursing project (next to the hospital), too, all this concept would fit perfectly with the medical center location.”
He added that it “is a beautiful site and each site would complement the other.”
Hodges immediately found support for the idea.
Commissioner John Welch said the property seemed like a logical fit to the county’s master plan for recreation, because the old Lowe’s building has good “road frontage and better access.”
Current calculations by the county have the price tag of a new recreation center at the swim complex about $25 million. This cost is subject to change, said county officials.
Commissioners have not made any final decision on a new recreation center or if the old swim complex would be a good fit for such a facility.
“When you are looking to spend this much money, we need to do it right,” Hodges said.
“We need to maximize the return on our investment,” Welch said.
Before moving forward with the idea, County Manager Deron Geouque cautioned the board on its momentum and reminded it of the need to contact the university, the current owner of the property.
A sit-down with ASU Chancellor Sheri Everts would also need to be at the top of the commissioners’ priority list on the project.
Commissioner Perry Yates also recommended a conversation with other entities affected by the proposal to incorporate the old Lowe’s property into any plans for the recreation center, including the town of Boone and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare.
Before going to in-depth with any entities on partnering in the newly proposed project, Commissioner Billy Kennedy wants the county to continue its original course of action and await the results of geo-engineer and civil study on the old recreation center first.
A feasibility study by Clark-Nexsen that was presented to the board Thursday morning during the commissioners’ annual budget retreat indicated the current swim complex, located off State Farm Road and near the connected baseball fields, could fit a new recreation center’s programming needs.
A civil engineer study would confirm this, Geouque said.
Hodges said he agreed with Kennedy’s sentiment, but wanted the board to “move forward as much as they can” with the proposed project without “spending too much money.”
The board came to a consensus to approach ASU about the property, while inquiring about a partnership with the town and hospital on a new recreation center.
Feb. 19, 2015. In conjunction with the popular Banff Mountain Film Festival, and to help celebrate the 19th annual screening of the World Tour, ASU Outdoor Programs is announcing the forth annual Appalachian Adventure Achievement Award or A4.
The A4 was created to indentify and celebrate the High Country’s talented mountain sports athletes and role models. The A4 initiative will recognize individuals who excel in their mountain sport (skiing, snowboarding, climbing, cross country or trail running, biking, kayaking, mountaineering/backpacking, adventure racing, etc.), are elevating the status of their sport in the High Country community, exemplify the outdoor lifestyle, are valued role models and/or mentors, contribute to social or environmental awareness of the area, and are excellent ambassadors to some aspect of the High Country outdoor community. Individuals may be nominated in one of two age categories: 17 and under and 18 to 24 years old (as of March 28, 2015).
The A4 initiative and getting youth outdoors is important from health and wellness, economic, and environmental perspectives. The trend toward a growing separation from nature is not only unhealthy from a physical perspective; it’s also unhealthy from a mental and spiritual standpoint. If our future decision makers have no physical connection to our natural resources they will be unprepared to make wise policy and budget decisions about them. Through the A4, we are trying to positively inspire more youth to adopt a healthy, supportive and active outdoor lifestyle, for their current and future well being. We also want to acknowledge young people and their passion and pursuits so that our community can celebrate them while inspiring others to join them in living active, healthy, and adventurous lives.
“We wanted to find a way to celebrate young people who are doing great things in our mountain community, so we created this award” states Rich Campbell, Associate Director of ASU Outdoor Programs. “Once again, we found inspiration from the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture who developed the World Tour which has become so popular in our community. They created a Mountain Idol award for young people in their community, and we loved the idea. After talking with their award coordinators, we came up with our own version specific to young people here in the High Country. The Banff Centre for Mountain Culture was very supportive of our efforts and noted that they are not aware of any other community who is doing anything like it. The 2014 winners of the A4 were Corin Brown in the 17 year old and under category and Wes Overvold in the 18-24 year old category. It was really exciting to present awards to these young people.”
There is a simple online form to nominate someone and it does not cost anything to nominate. Nominees must currently reside or attend school in the geographic area known as the High Country of North Carolina (the counties of Watauga, Avery, and Ashe.) Individuals can be nominated over successive years, but can only receive the A4 for their age category once. A4 winners will receive a generous prize package from project sponsors and will be formally recognized at the Boone, NC screening of the Banff Film Festival on March 27.
Blue Ridge Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine is the Presenting Partner for the 2015 A4 and the Mast General Store and Outdoor Research is a lead sponsor for this event. Appalachian Ski Mountain and Misty Mountain Threadworks are supporters for this event. “Due to the generosity of these businesses, we will have very generous prize packages for the A4 winners in each respective category” states Campbell.
Dr. Scott St.Clair of Blue Ridge Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine is thrilled that his practice is the presenting partner once again for the A4 award. “This award promotes the importance of outdoor recreation, leadership skills and community involvement. These are the same values that we hope to encourage in our patients.”
For more information about the A4, to nominate someone, and for more information about the 19th annual Banff Film Festival here in Boone, go to www.op.appstate.edu .
The board was unanimous in its decision to commit to sit down with the Watauga County Board of Education at its upcoming budget retreat to discuss the possibility of making the project come to fruition.
Proponents of the project said the ability to practice indoors would level the playing field with schools at lower altitudes that don’t have to contend with colder temperatures. Harsh High County winds and extreme temperatures – like the ones that have already robbed both respective programs of practice time this week – have annually plagued the programs as much of the preseason workouts commence during the height of winter, explained Jay Jackson, who made the presentation to the board on behalf of supporters of the project.
He wasn’t the only one who went up to bat for the facility and benefiting players.
Donning dark and light blue Pioneer colors, members of the baseball and softball programs filled the board room and spilled out into the adjoining lobby to demonstrate to commissioners the breadth of the facility’s impact on current and future generations of players.
Commissioners made no concrete commitment to funding the project, but showed a positive reception to the idea of an indoor facility and willingness to collaborate with the school board.
Already, various community partnerships, including continued support from the Will Dicus Foundation, has raised $70,000 for the project and are asking for an additional $125,000 to complete it.
Last week, the school board voted unanimously to endorse the project with the commitment to collaborate with the county on upcoming discussions of budget allocations for the project, said Jackson.
A similar facility, affectionately referred to as a dimly lit Quonset hut, was used at the old high school until its closing.
Plans for a similar facility were included in drawings of the new high school, but were later scrapped for the prioritization of other needs, said Jackson.
“It’s important to note how the old building was used and how this will do the same in the future,” said Jackson. “It will benefit those looking for individual work with coaches. It (the old facility) has benefited individuals not affiliated with the current teams, parks and recreation teams, All-Star teams and travel teams were able to use the Quonset hut.”
With proper netting and flooring, the high school’s golf team, for example, could also take advantage of the facility’s weather shielding attributes.
Although commissioners were in support of going forward with collaborating with the school system on the project, they did have concerns.
Citing that “sports is a great diversion” to area youth and helped players “learn team play and all kind of skills and thinking processes” through team sports, Commissioner Billy Kennedy noted that the county must “run a tight ship” in budgeting needs and was concerned the initial project estimate didn’t including plumbing, electrical and HVAC needs.
Referencing to a growing childhood obesity rate in the county, Kennedy said he is “committed to this project.”
Commissioner Perry Yates, who made the initial motion to further explore the indoor facility, said the facility would be more than just a place where children would go to learn about baseball, but would also serve as a safe and nurturing environment.
“As parents, we try to spend all our lives raising our kids, but at certain times, coaches and teachers spend more time forming our kids than we do,” said Yates.
“When you look at the board of education funding, our funding, there’s no reason we can’t bring this up, take care of it and build it and be on the way. We need it. We need it for the children and we need it for the community.”
With this, the dozens of supporters in the audience erupted in applause and yells.
Commissioner John Welch seconded his motion.
“It’s about time to upgrade our recreational infrastructure and find ways to support (students) not only in the classroom, but also extracurriculars,” said Welch. “This is something that is a no brainer for us. There is a way to do it.”
Commissioner Jimmy Hodges said he would like to see more specifics on the project and asked the county attorney direction on any type of bid process.
“We will be committed, but we need to get some details,” said Hodges.
Photo and News Article by Jesse Campbell.