Pisgah Mountain News, February 5, 2009

Group: Soccer complex could boost local economy

Fletcher leaders recently got more details about a proposal to turn a 51-acre tract of land near the ArvinMeritor plant into a soccer complex that could eventually host tournaments.
The Henderson County Soccer Association made its presentation to Fletcher Town Council last week.
The group wants to lease land owned by the town just off U.S. 25. The group would like to begin construction on soccer fields this year and have them ready for play in 2010.
Fletcher leaders did not take action last week. The issue is on the board's agenda for the regular council meeting next week.
“I think there's an opportunity here,” Fletcher Mayor Bill Moore said last week. But he added, “I think there's a lot of homework that has to be done by this council.”
Clement Riddle, president of the association, said the first phase of the project would involve four full-size grass fields, three smaller U-12 fields, a parking lot with 180 spaces and one picnic shelter. A second phase would involve two full size fields, four smaller fields, 220 parking spaces, one picnic shelter, a walking trail and restroom and concession facility.
The association would spend about $600,000 on the first phase. The town would be responsible for paving the road and the parking lot during that first phase.
“We don't have a place (in Henderson County) that's currently dedicated for soccer,” Riddle said of the need for the fields.
Riddle said other communities have built similar facilities, and he said hosting large tournaments could generate revenue for the Fletcher area.
The association is proposing a 25-year lease with the town.
But there are several issues that must be resolved including gaining a right-of-way for the entrance from ArvinMeritor and dealing with any provisions brought on by the fact that the property is in the floodway.
Officials from the state Ecosystem Enhancement Program are working on the right-of-way issue.
Council member Hugh Clark also worried that the fields would be private like a “gated community,” and not easily accessible to the public.
“There ought to be some return on that for the citizens of Fletcher,” Clark said.
But Riddle said access to the fields would need to be controlled to maintain the condition of the fields. He said the public could sign up to use the fields, but the lease would give the association priority control over all soccer fields.
Clark suggested the town could get grant money to help build the fields and allow groups to lease them from the town.
“We could control when it's open, how it's used…,” Clark said.
Moore said the town council needs to talk more about the proposal.