Wake County gives $3M to local arts, recreation projects

9 November 2016

 Cary will get $1 million to add wireless internet service and turf fields at WakeMed Soccer Park.The N.C. Museum of Art will get $1 million to add a new visitor services center and, among, other things, build a ramp to the sensory garden and play zone.And Fuquay-Varina will get $500,000 to upgrade Fleming Loop Park with a new multi-sport complex.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday doled out more than $3 million to towns and organizations seeking financial assistance for projects that promote recreation or the arts. The money comes from Wake’s food and hotel-occupancy tax revenues, which county leaders award annually to projects that they think will boost local tourism. Wake had $3.35 million available.

Distribution of money through the program has been controversial in the past. This year’s decisions came after leaders in Cary and Morrisville complained that they weren’t getting their fair share of the revenue. Commissioners gave $258,000 to Morrisville to add lights to its cricket fields.

On Monday, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he appreciated the county board’s attentiveness. Improvements to the soccer park, as well as the town’s tennis park, will help Cary compete for college athletic events the town lost after the adoption of House Bill 2, the state law that regulates public bathroom use by transgender people and forbids local governments from enacting protections for LGBT people.

“The vote is great news for us. We’ve lost all of our NCAA and ACC events ... which put millions back in the economy every year,” Weinbrecht said. “We still think we need a bigger voice, but it’s nice to know that the commissioners listen.”The Republican-led board faced criticism in 2014 after awarding $1.5 million to developers who planned to build a basketball facility in Knightdale. The project fell through, and some Holly Springs leaders who unsuccessfully lobbied to receive money for a town-funded athletic complex backed Democratic candidates in the following county board election.

This week, commissioners also gave $348,000 to help Wake Forest renovate its Renaissance Centre for the Arts and $100,000 to help Marbles Kids Museum install new art and play amenities in its yard in downtown Raleigh.In a late push by commissioner John Burns, the board also approved $300,000 to fund a private project known as the Capital Athletic Pavilion, a $10.8 million indoor sports facility being developed by Steve Sterrett near Triangle Town Center in North Raleigh.

Sterrett says he hopes to provide recreational opportunities to children in the area who may not have the financial means to join youth sports leagues. He says there is potential to partner with local public schools that have high percentages of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch.“I would be excited to work with you,” Sterrett said of schools.Commissioners declined funding requests from seven groups that sought a total of more than $4 million.

Holly Springs asked for $1.5 million to renovate its convention center, and Rolesville asked for $1.5 million to help fund a $17.1 million outdoor sports complex. The town has yet to secure land for the project, according to county documents.Fuquay-Varina, which received funding for its athletic fields, also sought $875,000 to help pay for a $3.67 million effort to transform a downtown building into an arts center. Raleigh sought $200,000 to help subsidize the $2 million BikeShare project it plans to launch downtown next year.

The board also rejected a $1.5 million request from the TriSports group to help build an outdoor sports complex, a $500,000 request by Hibernian Hospitality to build a food hall on Morgan Street and a $22,000 request by the Triangle Sports Commission to install a new dock and rowing course at Lake Wheeler.