Council may proceed with caution on sports complex plan

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

The city’s proposed $46.2 million Driver Sports Complex sounds like a winner.

But some Suffolk City Council members believe the ambitious-and costly-plan is too much for the state’s fastest growing city.

&uot;I think the timing may be a little off for us,&uot; said Mayor Bobby L. Ralph. &uot;I don’t see us doing the sports complex at the present time.

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&uot;I want to see the site in full use but I think we need to scale back at this time. We are a little ahead of ourselves right now.&uot;

Ralph believes the city should shear away some of the plan’s extra amenities, such as the amphitheater with seating for 10,000 and a $15.8 million equestrian center.

Rather, he said, the project should start with the $2.3 million five-field softball complex, which would appeal to local adult ball players and attract tournaments to the area.

Council members Charles F. Brown and Linda T. Johnson were concerned about spending so much money on one project.

&uot;There is no way I can support focusing everything in one location when we look at our needs throughout the region,&uot; Brown said. &uot;I’d like to see more of a regional approach. All of our citizens are important and deserve a better quality of life.&uot;

Perhaps, Brown suggested, the city might consider partnering with the new north Suffolk YMCA on some facilities. Johnson supported his idea.

&uot;Why would we want to take something so natural and pretty and make it into a $46 million arena?&uot; she said. &uot;I don’t think people are going to be as excited as you think over a $46 million recreation facility.&uot;

Johnson also questioned whether Sleepy Hole Road-a narrow, two-lane thoroughfare connecting Nansemond Park-way and Kings Highway-is equipped to handle the extra traffic the proposed complex would generate.