Field house vote delayed

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Chesapeake City Council delayed voting on a proposal to add $7 million to the city’s 2017 capital improvement budget to build a field house in Western Branch.

Instead, the council voted 6-3 to have city staff spend the next 60 days studying Councilman Roland Davis’ recommendation to build the facility he says would make Western Branch a destination for local sports teams.

The council directed staff to meet with community members and come back with a recommendation in April.

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Davis and council members Richard Ike and Ella Ward voted against the delay, with Davis saying that timing is crucial due to a competing project being studied by a neighboring city.

Davis’ proposed resolution called for the city to build a field house that would include indoor turf fields, hard courts for volleyball and basketball, and a lounge or party room. Ideally, it would pull sports teams from Chesapeake, Suffolk, Norfolk and Portsmouth who now travel to Virginia Beach for practices and games, according to Davis.

Davis’ proposal also called for the city to contract with an outside company to operate the facility through a 20-year leasing agreement, he said. That company would be required to make a roughly $1.6-million investment up front, which would be used for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Councilwoman Suzy Kelly made the amended resolution, asking for the city manager’s report to include options for the facility, amount of public funding needed, and the opportunities for private investment.

“We all agree a destination venue is needed for Western Branch but the where and how is still not clear,” Kelly said. She also called for the Western Branch and sports communities to come together with more consensus of what they want for the facility.

Kathy Regan Davis, founder of the Western Branch Growing Forward Facebook page, said the community looks forward to meeting with city leaders.

“We are disappointed but we don’t feel like we walked out with a loss,” Davis said. “We want council to feel comfortable with the proposal, and we are going to be here to help them.”

To date, no citizen meetings have been planned, Davis said.

A dozen speakers supported the proposal, with some saying it should also include an aquatic center. Several speakers also said it would boost economic development, particularly in the retail, food and lodging sectors.