City eyes indoor sports facility

An indoor youth sports facility featuring volleyball and basketball courts as well as a new Hendersonville Senior Citizens Center is the latest project to be proposed for the long-vacant, city-owned land known as the Hawkins property.

Trigg Wilkes who manages the Franklin Fieldhouse, a multi-sport facility in Franklin, Tenn., with his company Fieldhouse, LLC, presented his idea for a similar complex in Hendersonville last week to members of the city’s Capital Projects committee.

Mayor Jamie Clary, who also attended the meeting, said he’s heard from at least four or five people interested in building some sort of a project – all of them sports-related – on the site.

“I’ve taken no action on any of them and passed them along to the Capital Projects committee,” Clary said.

The 10-acre site located between Campus Drive and Imperial Blvd. was the first home of Hendersonville High School in 1941. The site later housed V. G. Hawkins Jr. High School. County leaders sold the property to the city of Hendersonville in 1993 for $75,000 with the stipulation that the property revert back to the county if it’s used for “other than public purposes.” The little over 9,000-square-feet Hendersonville Senior Center currently sits on a portion of the property.

County and city leaders met last year to discuss the possibility of the county building a new health department on the land, but those discussions appear to have stalled.

Wilkes, a former part-owner of the now-defunct A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin, said he’s been eyeing Hendersonville for an indoor youth sports facility for the last four or five years.

He mentioned the 75,000-square-feet facility in Franklin, as well as a 45,000-square-feet facility his company has constructed in Murfreesboro and a $26 million project in Madison, Ala.

“This is what we do,” he said, adding he would like to build a complex in Hendersonville that would combine an indoor youth sporting venue with a senior citizens center.

“We want this to feel like a community center,” he said, suggesting a 50,000-sqare-feet facility with volleyball and basketball courts as well as space for senior center programming. Other amenities could include a walking trail for senior citizens or an outdoor beach volleyball court.

Wilkes also spoke about the economic impact such a facility could have on the community.

“In the year 2020, youth sports are predicted to be a $20 billion industry,” he said, adding such a facility would bring millions of dollars to the area in the form of restaurant, hotel and retail business.

Hendersonville Senior Citizens Center Director Julie White says she’s amenable to the idea of an intergenerational facility.

“I don’t fee like enough is being done for our seniors,” White said adding that the city’s senior adult population is only increasing. “For a city our size, a senior citizen center our size is very inadequate. I’m all for listening to the different alternatives.”

Peg Petrelli, who represents Ward 1 in which the property lies, says she met with Wilkes in February and suggested somehow incorporating the senior center into a sports facility.

“We need more for our seniors,” said Petrelli. “I think that opportunity needs to be explored.”

Petrelli said she wanted to discuss the proposal during a workshop, but Clary sent the project to the Capital Projects committee instead.

Either way, the alderwoman says there are several questions that weren’t answered in last week’s meeting.

It’s not clear if the city would lease the property to Fieldhouse, LLC, or if that is even allowed under the current deed restrictions on the property. Although the city’s Public Works committee voted to have an appraisal done on the property, that has yet to happen.

Petrelli said she’d like to put something on the site that would benefit as much of the community as possible.

“We need to have a master plan for this whole site, not just piece meal it together,” she said.

Committee members took no action on the proposal, but voted to fund an appraisal of the property. Ward 3 Alderwoman Arlene Cunningham said she would like to get more input from the community.

“Let’s put it out to the community and let’s see what their input is,” she added.

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