Lee’s Hill mulled for stadium

PARKERSBURG – Another spot could be in contention for the proposed minor league baseball stadium being planned by local development officials.

Members of the Wood County Development Authority’s Parkersburg Baseball Study Committee, city officials and others looked Thursday at land on top of Lee’s Hill, which overlooks West Virginia 47 near U.S. 50, as a potential site for the stadium. The media was not allowed to accompany them on the 45-minute tour.

After the tour Tom Rooney, president of the Rooney Sports and Entertainment Group, spoke about what officials saw on Lee’s Hill.

“It is a fantastic site,” he said. “It has a tremendous ability to be able to expand into many different aspects.”

The site reminded him of a similar site in Washington, Pa., where a baseball stadium was built for the Washington Wild Things. It started with the baseball park and now has a shopping mall nearby as well as hotels, restaurants, a medical center and other retail businesses, he said.

“Now it is completely developed,” Rooney said.

Officials have looked at sites on Fort Boreman Hill and in the downtown area around Sixth Street in Parkersburg.

“We are down here looking at all of the options,” Rooney said. “We are in that phase. We had an opportunity to come up and look at this site. We are going to be looking at some other sites.”

Rooney did not go into specifics about where those other sites were locally, saying that would be up to the city to disclose those when it felt the time was right.

“There are still sites being suggested,” he said. “We are still in that mode to figure out which one is best.”

Rooney liked the Lee’s Hill site because of the space available and could include long-reaching plans for future development.

“This one, I like the ability of this thing to be part of a major master plan with many components to it,” he said. “Everything is right about it. There is certainly enough land up on Lee’s Hill for this to do many things.”

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said the site would be included in the feasibility studies being done for the project.

“It is a nice property,” he said. “It could be in the mix. We are looking at all of the possibilities.”

The mayor highlighted the available flat land and that it had a nice view of the surrounding area on Lee’s Hill.

Any site considered would have to meet certain criteria to be a viable choice, including room for growth around it, among many factors.

“It has got to make sense to us, the development authority and the baseball authority,” Newell said.

Although the Lee’s Hill site is not in the city, the possibility of annexing the property could be considered.

The Lee’s Hill site could join the Fort Boreman site and the Sixth Street site in the next phase of the feasibility study being done on the project, officials said.

A ballpark or arena can be a catalyst for many other things, Rooney said.

“The downtown sites are nice for people to be able to walk to the games,” he said. “A site like this, you have a much broader landscape to deal with. It is a blank page.

“With the valley growing and the possibility of a cracker plant coming there is going to be a lot of anticipation for a lot of other things to be here. The ballpark can be a big part of that.”

Whenever they tour a site, they let the site “speak” to them on how they might fit into the fabric of the community.

“They tell us what they can and cannot do,” Rooney said. “A site speaks to you. It tells you this is what we can do and what we can’t do. This is where you can grow and can’t grow. You work with what you have.”

Proposed sites around Parkersburg have potential, Rooney said.