Fieldhouse idea advances

Published 9:28 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Chesapeake City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to move forward on building an athletic field house in the Western Branch community.

With an 8-0 vote, the council supported Councilman Roland Davis’ amended resolution directing City Manager Jim Baker to develop over the next 90 days a detailed request for proposals for building, maintaining and operating a field house.

In February, Davis had requested that the city amend its 2017 capital improvement plan by adding $7 million in city funds to help build the proposed facility. On Tuesday, he withdrew his specific funding request, at the recommendation of city staffers who had studied the proposal and met with citizens over the past two months.

Email newsletter signup

Baker said his staff encountered a number of detailed variables, including construction costs, site operations, financing possibilities, private partnerships and potential to serve the community, that made coming back with a specific recommendation challenging.

Having several private companies come up with different proposals, all from industry experts, gives the city the flexibility to choose the best facility, Davis said.

“This keeps it moving forward and that’s all I really wanted,” Davis said. “The (city funding) amount is immaterial; it was intended as a line in the sand to give perspective to the private marketplace.”

“I also believe this demonstrates what happens when citizens get together and become active in the community,” Davis added. “It produces results … and effects change.”

Kathy Reagan Young, founder of Western Branch Growing Forward, a Facebook group of nearly 6,000 that has lobbied for the field house, says she is happy with the council’s decision.

“It’s not a done deal, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Young. “We need to make this happen … especially since Chesapeake Square is up on the auction block.

“That feels like another in a long series of blows, and it’s tough to keep getting up,” she said. “We are looking at this field house as our life raft.

“We need some help, and we look at this as a vote of confidence in Western Branch.”