Fate of Prince William’s $140M sports complex is on the agenda this week

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Prince William County is considering developing an over $100 million indoor athletics facility. (Courtesy MEB)

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday is expected to make a critical decision that could decide the fate of a proposed multimillion dollar indoor athletics facility.

The board has until May 20 to decide whether to finalize purchase of a $15 million Woodbridge property that is currently under contract by the county with plans for a national destination for sporting and other types of events, as well as a local hub for use by athletic organizations.

Seth Hendler-Voss, director of Prince William County’s Department of Parks and Recreation who has headed the project, said on Friday the land will go to closing next month unless the board takes action to terminate the agreement.

The board declining to purchase the land would almost certainly kill the proposal in its entirety, Hendler-Voss said. It’s not clear that the board has the support necessary for the sportsplex as concerns abound with the project’s steep $140 million price tag. But there may still be an appetite to purchase the land for potential alternative uses.

Board Chair Deshundra Jefferson, a lone Democrat who is skeptical of the sportsplex proposal and could be a critical swing vote, said in a Friday interview she is likely to back the land purchase as the site could still be used by the county for other purposes. Jefferson said she is “not at liberty” to disclose other potential uses for the property that are in talks among county officials.

The board’s other seven members didn’t return requests for comment on whether they will support the land acquisition, but Democrats who hold a majority have largely been supportive of advancing the sportsplex.

The multiuse facility, which could be the largest of its kind in the Washington region, is proposed for 13505 Telegraph Road along the Interstate 95 corridor, which officials say is ideal to attract clientele for large events from across the East Coast. The facility would feature a hydraulic running track and hard-surface courts used for basketball, pickleball and space for conventions or other events.

The most recent renderings for a proposed multiuse sports facility that would feature a hydraulic running track and hard-surface courts used for basketball, pickleball and space for conventions or other events. (Prince William County)

Republicans and Jefferson have expressed concern about the project’s cost. Most other Democrats say the facility would be a boon for the growing community and provide youth athletes a state-of-the-art facility close to home for them to train and compete in. They also touted it as a potential driver of economic activity for the surrounding area.

Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir, a Republican who opposes the plan, has said several times in recent weeks the board lacks the support necessary for the project.

Projections from consultants retained by the county show that, if the facility is approved, it will become profitable by its third year in use, netting the county more than $400,000 in revenue that’s expected to marginally grow in subsequent years. But the facility would operate in the red at the expense of taxpayers for its first two years in operation.

The board has thus far expended $1 million to allow recreation officials to begin talks with several contractors to flesh out the proposal. It also accounted for an agreement reached with the Telegraph Road site’s current property owner, Belno, LLC, to further sale negotiations.

Officials indicated the nearest major competitor to the facility would be a similar site in Virginia Beach and Spooky Nook Sports, the country’s largest indoor sports facility located just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Project proponents, including Prince William Economic Development Director Christina Winn, have said it would become a key piece of sports tourism for the county and serve as a catalyst for additional development in the area. Winn said the surrounding area is primed for additional hotel development that could serve the more than 60,000 annual visitors the sportsplex is projected to draw.

Officials say the expected surge in sports tourism will also help boost the county’s small businesses as parents travel to their children’s sporting events and spend money on meals and merchandise while staying nearby, sometimes for days at a time.

The county has held a number of town hall-style meetings to solicit input from residents on the proposal. Its proponents include high school student athletes, an Olympic gold medalist in track, local coaches, sports league organizers and members of the pickleball community. Several public school student-athletes, coaches and parents have spoken of the lengthy travel times they endure to attend track meets since there isn’t a facility nearby.

The county board in 2019 considered an indoor sports complex as part of a bond referendum program for parks, but the proposal ultimately died because of cost concerns.

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