Orange County buying land for SportsPlex expansion

tgrubb@newsobserver.comOctober 18, 2013 

— The county commissioners’ decision Tuesday night to buy two Hillsborough lots lays the foundation for expanding the Orange County SportsPlex.

The commissioners agreed to spend $382,000 to buy nearly three acres in front of the SportsPlex on U.S. 70-A. The county has been talking with the owners of those lots, and two others, about buying them for some time.

“We’re getting to that stage where we’re starting to exceed our own expectations of the members we’re servicing,” said John Stock, SportsPlex executive director and general manager.

The SportsPlex gets about 500,000 visits a year in a roughly 70,000-square-foot space, Stock and county officials said. There are about 4,700 regular members, up from roughly 1,200 members when the county bought the SportsPlex in 2005, Stock said.

His company, Recreation Factory Partners, operates the center under a 10-year contract with the county using roughly $3 million in fees and other revenues. The SportsPlex has 18 full-time and 45 part-time staff, Stock said.

“It’s been a long time since any taxpayer money has gone into this thing,” he said.

However, county officials estimate the SportsPlex injects more than $10 million into the local economy.

Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs said the decision will address “a good problem.”

“It’s also worth acknowledging the fine job that Mr. Stock and his organization have done in turning around this facility, not only making it popular, but so popular that it’s starting to burst at the seams,” he said.

The land could immediately provide more parking for the 21-year-old center, said Jeff Thompson, the county’s asset management director. Two houses on the land could be temporary offices during construction, relocated or used for another purpose, he said.

The SportsPlex has been renting space from the adjoining Central Orange Senior Center for large groups and classes, especially during peak evening hours, Stock said. The center has 350 parking spaces, which accommodates all but the largest events, such as swim meets, he said.

Renovations wrapped up last year to the center’s pool and roof, part of a $5.6 million, five-year investment. Stock said the plan includes several smaller projects, from locker room, restroom and lobby renovations to replacing fitness equipment, heating and air-conditioning systems. Fitness and building equipment typically has a 15-year lifespan, although you can stretch that out through regular maintenance, he said.

The work was the first step in three-phase expansion, including a updated pool area, cardio equipment and space for bike classes and massage; indoor turf fields; and a regulation-size, high school and college basketball court.

The turf fields are great for teaching motor and social skills to young children, Stock said. It also could have a walking track for older members.

“My goal for us ... is to have a state-of-the-art facility, maybe one of the most premier facilities in the country,” he said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

Chapel Hill News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service