TAZEWELL, Va. — Tazewell residents won’t see a new hotel or bowling alley any time soon, but a new sports complex may be on the horizon.
Town Council voted to move forward with plans to determine if a sports complex is feasible on the former Ramey Ford site at Fourway. The town bought the property last year for $300,000.
Councilmembers Glenn Catron and Chris Brown have pushed the idea of a complex to draw athletic teams from across the region to the town. Town Manager Todd Day, who said he saw the potential from taking his daughter to sports events in other places, proposed a feasibility study for a center.
“Our kids, not only here, but in the region travel all the way to Liberty University to run indoor track,” Day said.
Chmura, a financial analysis firm from Richmond, will conduct a feasibility study for phase one of the project, which will be an indoor sports facility. Day said the cost of the first phase of construction is to be $10 million, which he says is a high estimate.
Brown said the community has raised $13,000 toward paying for the study and asked if that money was being held.
Day recommended holding the $13,000, which could be returned to investors if the first phase is not feasible. He asked the council to pull the $26,942 needed for the study from the $60,000 that was being held for a parking garage project instead.
The first phase would have six gymnasiums that would accommodate basketball, volleyball, competitive cheerleading and other activities. There would be mats to roll out for wrestling tournaments and a sanctioned indoor track.
The track would be available for local high school track meets, and would be the only one of its kind on this side of the state. The closest indoor track is currently located over three hours away in Lynchburg.
The town paid the Wise, Virginia-based architectural firm Thompson & Litton $7,000 for preliminary sketches of what a sports complex would look like on the site.
Councilman David Fox questioned what the complex would do for the tax rates.
The site is expected bring more people into town to eat at restaurants, shop at stores and other things to increase the town’s revenue, according to councilwoman Emily Combs-Davis.
Davis’ motion to approve the study passed unanimously. Chmura is the same company that did the economic and fiscal impact study for the Bluestone Technology Park for the county in 2006.
Day also announced Greg Mulkey, an individual developer who was working on plans for a hotel on Main Street and a bowling alley in North Tazewell, pulled the plug on both projects after losing one of his investors.
Mulkey also expressed concerns about the hotel project after a study showed a hotel on Main Street in Tazewell would have an average 51 percent occupancy rate, according to Day.
The study was performed in 2016 by Jamie Osborne for The Highland Group. The hotel investment group has developed Holiday Inn Express hotels in Lebanon, Bedford and other area locations.
Day said the town committed to pay $8,000 of the cost of that study, but has not been billed to date.
The original plans developed by The Highland Group were for a Holiday Inn Express that would sit at street level on Main Street with a two tier parking garage underneath. Mulkey, who was already attempting to resurrect the bowling alley, took up the plans and committed to a hotel but never provided any further details on the project.
Tazewell received a $30,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development to fund a study on the need for additional parking as part of the planning for the hotel.
The study showed there was a need for off street parking during the day. The town voted to build a parking garage to house hotel guests and also other visitors who needed to park along Main Street. Day said the town would continue to seek investors for the project.