Sports arena heads Driver growth plan

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

An amphitheater with lawn seating for 10,000.

A $15.8 million equestrian center, featuring two outdoor bridle rings and four stables.

Five lighted adult softball fields, at a total cost of $2.3 million.

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Those are among the highlights of the city’s proposed plans for the $46.2 million, 360-acre Driver Sports Complex, which will be unveiled to residents during three community meetings next week.

The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation wants citizen input to use in shaping the final document that will be presented to the Suffolk City Council in June, said department head Lakita Frazier.

Meetings are being held April 11 at Nansemond River High School; April 13, Lakeland High School; and April 14, King’s Fork High School. All meetings are from 6 to 8 p.m.

Other features included in the draft, which was presented to the Suffolk City Council Wednesday, are:

-A festival area that includes 20 acres of open space and a picnic grove.

-An elevated, covered stage area in the amphitheater.

-Tennis and basketball courts.

-Two Little League baseball diamonds.

-A Tot Lot.

-A skatepark.

-A 60,000-square-foot recreation center, one of three proposed for the city.

-Boat launching area on the Nansemond River.

-Parking for more than 5,000.

Frazier is hopeful turnout will be good at next week’s meetings.

&uot;We definitely want to hear from people,&uot; she said. &uot;Their input will be used to make modifications to the original plan.&uot;

The city has already allocated $450,000 to the project, which the department has used to fund the creation of the draft plan and demolish several existing buildings at the former Navy site, Frazier said. The city has earmarked $1.2 million in startup capital funding over the next three years.

&uot;This is an aggressive project and it is a lot to swallow,&uot; Frazier said. &uot;But we don’t expect the city to foot the bill for the entire project.&uot;

Once an approved plan is hand, she is confident the city will be able to acquire grants, franchise agreements and private sponsorships that will help pay for the complex.

&uot;The plan is the first piece we need,&uot; Frazier said. &uot;We need something to be able to shop around with. There are possibilities; I’ve seen it done before.&uot;

For example, the National Soccer Association has partnered with the Virginia Beach’s Department of Parks and Recreation in helping fund a major soccer complex in that city.