County to explore ASU’s warehouse as new Rec Center

Posted on Feb 27, 2015 | 0 comments

Watauga County

Watauga County commissioners might now be eyeing university property to be included in its plan for a possible revamped recreation center at the county’s current swim complex off State Farm Road.

During a presentation by an engineering firm on the feasibility of constructing such a site at the current swim complex and adjoining facilities, which was the board’s original intent, Chairman Jimmy Hodges took the conversation into an entirely different direction.

While contemplating the feasibility of the proposed location, which will require further examination through a civil engineer study, Hodges recommended the county’s pursuit of the former Lowe’s warehouse building located between the fire department and the tennis courts as a possible inclusion in a new recreation complex.

The property is currently owned by Appalachian State University.

“I know this might be a far-fetched idea, but I want to explore the possibility of ownership of that property,” Hodges said. “The Lowe’s property would be a natural fit to have that included as part of the recreation center. If we think about the new school of nursing project (next to the hospital), too, all this concept would fit perfectly with the medical center location.”

He added that it “is a beautiful site and each site would complement the other.”

Hodges immediately found support for the idea.

Commissioner John Welch said the property seemed like a logical fit to the county’s master plan for recreation, because the old Lowe’s building has good “road frontage and better access.”

Current calculations by the county have the price tag of a new recreation center at the swim complex about $25 million. This cost is subject to change, said county officials.

Commissioners have not made any final decision on a new recreation center or if the old swim complex would be a good fit for such a facility.

“When you are looking to spend this much money, we need to do it right,” Hodges said.

“We need to maximize the return on our investment,” Welch said.

Before moving forward with the idea, County Manager Deron Geouque cautioned the board on its momentum and reminded it of the need to contact the university, the current owner of the property.

A sit-down with ASU Chancellor Sheri Everts would also need to be at the top of the commissioners’ priority list on the project.

Commissioner Perry Yates also recommended a conversation with other entities affected by the proposal to incorporate the old Lowe’s property into any plans for the recreation center, including the town of Boone and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare.

Before going to in-depth with any entities on partnering in the newly proposed project, Commissioner Billy Kennedy wants the county to continue its original course of action and await the results of geo-engineer and civil study on the old recreation center first.

A feasibility study by Clark-Nexsen that was presented to the board Thursday morning during the commissioners’ annual budget retreat indicated the current swim complex, located off State Farm Road and near the connected baseball fields, could fit a new recreation center’s programming needs.

A civil engineer study would confirm this, Geouque said.

Hodges said he agreed with Kennedy’s sentiment, but wanted the board to “move forward as much as they can” with the proposed project without “spending too much money.”

The board came to a consensus to approach ASU about the property, while inquiring about a partnership with the town and hospital on a new recreation center.

 

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