Written by Elizabeth Cooper, Co-founder of Hope Mills Citizens for Change
The October 29th, 2018 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. The meeting was attended by Sally Bailey, Chairperson, Sandra Ebron, Winnie Golden, Tiffany Horne (arrived late), Mike Seals, Linda Sumners, Maxie Dove(Liaison for HM PR), Meg Larson (Liaison for HM BOC), and Bruce Armstrong (Liaison for HMYA), Mike Mitchell, Jeremy Aagard (Swamp Dogs) and Elizabeth Cooper. Commissioner Mitchell does not regularly attend these meetings and is not the liaison from the board.
Discussion focused on the two items listed as New business
- Proposal presentation (Fayetteville Swamp Dogs)
- Study/Discussions: Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation (Possible merger with Hope Mills Parks & Recreation)
Mr. Aagard presented his proposal verbally, not having the capability to use the television in the small conference room to display the presentation that was shown at the Board of Commissioners Meeting a week earlier. The Committee was thorough in their questions as to the benefits this proposal would bring to Hope Mills. Concern was expressed about the saturation of Baseball Event facilities being developed in the area, and the concern that considering emerging competition in the area, the Swamp Dogs Organization may go “belly up”. The facility itself is proposed to be a 2000 seat facility which is smaller than the current stadium they lease from Cumberland County. The Committee asked about the potential for youth baseball games to be played at the facility, and Mr. Aagard assured them it would just be a matter of scheduling. The Committee asked about the potential for doing a Fourth of July event annually, to which Mr. Aagard expressed enthusiasm for the type of production that could be put on at a newer facility on the Fourth of July (they are unable to schedule a Fourth of July event on the Fourth in their current facility). When asked about the size of field as it relates to youth sporting requirements Mr. Aagard responded that a new facility could be designed to accommodate all age and ability levels for the sporting events in question, it is a simple matter of knowing what you want when you develop the plan.
Costs were obviously a concern to the committee, but they declined from delving into details, and asked what the pricing would be on tickets for sporting events. Mr. Aagard projected the cost would remain under $10 as that is what demand has proven is the reasonable limit in the 15 years he has been a part of the organization. He stated the Swamp Dogs Organization was committed to being “family affordable entertainment”.
Traffic was a concern that was brought up the HMYA liaison Mr. Bruce Armstrong, specifically on Golfview Rd. Ms. Bailey discussed the traffic situation that was likely to affect the new stadium being built in Downtown Fayetteville and projected the traffic situation would be far worse there than in Hope Mills. Especially with the 295-bypass coming in just south of where the proposed stadium would be on Black Bridge Rd, that the ease of movement in out of the location would actually be better. Mr. Armstrong again suggested the traffic is just too congested for the type of facility being considered. I requested a chance to speak and stated the new FAMPO plan already included widening Golfview to four lanes, and the 295 access to the road was already going before the zoning commission.
Mr. Armstrong was clearly in favor of the Wagon Wheel/Clover Leaf youth sporting facility being developed, and expressed concerns that while the Golf course property was over 90 acres, only 68% of the land was able to be developed cutting down on the space available for plans for the area.
The Committee said that the issue needed to go before the financial committee to determine the feasibility and should be presented to the McAdams group to be included as one of the possibilities in the 10 year plan. Mr. Aagard was excused from the meeting, Commissioner Mitchell followed him out and spoke to him briefly.
The committee moved onto the possible merger for discussion. Mr. Mike Seals stated the discussion proposed was actually step 4 of the process, and that there should be contact made with the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program, and that as of the meeting they had not been approached by the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program about any merger, specifically it was stated that the “request did not come from anywhere”. Commissioner Mitchell agreed the discussion may be too soon, and they really need to get an idea of what the McAdams group was looking at for the 10-year plan, and he told Mr. Aagard he should bring them a business plan for the Swamp Dog proposal so that it could be given to the McAdams group.
Duplication of effort was discussed with the emphasis being on three different ball stadiums in a small geographic location. The demand could not meet the needs of three different ball stadiums according Mike Seals. Sally Bailey commented that sometimes growth required a leap of faith, that had been her experience. Mr. Armstrong commented that a facility like the one proposed by the Swamp Dogs required a community of upper middle-class incomes to support it, and Hope Mills was solidly a lower middle class economy. I asked him if he thought Hope Mills should stay that way. Mr. Armstrong suggested there was not enough land to develop business to accommodate upper to middle class families. He asked if I thought we could bring enough industry to Hope Mills to support that kind of growth. I replied the Town of Hope Mills developed out of industry and the growth the town was experiencing required more jobs to support the people and economy. And the country has gone to a more service focused job economy and the proposal by the Swamp Dogs was entirely a service industry type of opportunity.
Discussion turned back to the merger proposal and Mr. Mike Seals stated the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program was run by the City of Fayetteville, with Board Members from the municipalities taking part. He stated the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program had an 18 to 19-million-dollar budget to bring to bear in Hope Mills. Discussion commenced about the Bond the City of Fayetteville approved for the Parks and Recreation program. Mr. Seals stated it was a 35-million-dollar bond that could only be used for facilities owned by the City of Fayetteville. Mr. Seals, who works for the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation Department and is a voting member on the Hope Mill Parks and Recreation Committee was the main source of information pertaining to a possible merger. He stated, as a resident of Hope Mills he would recommend joining the Fayetteville/Cumberland program, and as an Employee of the program he said he would change that to “Come on in”. I asked Mr. Seals how much of the 18 to 19 million budget he claimed the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program had to bring to bear in Hope Mills was made up of the 35 million bond that could only be spent in Fayetteville? Mr. Seals did not have an answer to that. At that time, Liaison Meg Larson appeared to pull up some budget information related to the discussion on her phone and shared it with Tiffany Horne. The discussion turned to the Bond issue being proposed in Hope Mills but was quickly sidelined as a financial committee issue.
Mr. Armstrong went on to say the thing that makes small towns special is a couple of things and specifically in Hope Mills it is our lake, and our baseball and softball program. We have had 22 state championship teams coming from Hope Mills over the years. No other municipality in Cumberland County can claim even one. Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation is not sanctioned by any of the little league organizations and therefore is not eligible to play in state championships. Hope Mills, as an independent program, is sanctioned by the Dixie Youth Athletic organization. Mr. Armstrong asked Mr. Seals if there were any plans in the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program to become sanctioned again by the Little League Organization or any other? Mr. Seals stated there was not at this time. Mr. Armstrong expressed his concern that the young players cycling through the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation program would lose out an opportunity to see their names listed in the outfield of Brower Park for posterity as State Champions. Mr. Armstrong also stated that while he respected Mr. Seals for his ability to manage athletic programs, he was set to retire in six months and then there were no guarantees to how the program in Hope Mills would be handled. Mr. Armstrong did say he would like to see some form of partnership between the Hope Mills athletic programs and the Fayetteville/Cumberland athletic program so Hope Mills could play Grays Creek and Steadman again.
Discussion turned to a proposal in the offing from the YMCA to build an aquatics facility at the Golf Course location, and it was stated the YMCA already owns some land there with an easement coming from the parking lot of the Golf Course to their property. Mr. Mike Seals mentioned that Fayetteville/Cumberland partners with the YMCA and as part of the partnership the YMCA trains and provides the life guard staff for their aquatic facilities, to include the liability issues associated with their employees. The committee discussed that being part of all the efforts being considered by the McAdams Group. The merger discussion was put on hold until a workshop with the Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks and Recreation program and the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation program could be scheduled and attended.
The final issue discussed concerned two empty seats available on the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Committee, one that was already being advertised and one that was to be advertised shortly.