PARKERSBURG -The Wood County Development Authority is set to acquire an option to purchase almost 200 acres of property with the hope of landing a new National Guard armory-civic center and possibly a baseball stadium.
Authority president Keith Burdette has received approval from the WCDA executive committee to acquire an option on the $4 million property on Fort Boreman Hill from the McDonough Corp. Burdette will seek final approval from the board of directors at a meeting later this week.
"We have an agreement to allow us to acquire an option to purchase the Boreman property," he said.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Mayor Bob Newell, left, and Keith Burdette, president of the Wood County Development Authority, pose next to the land near Fort Boreman Historic Park the authority hopes to buy for a West Virginia National Guard armory-civic center and a baseball stadium. The 200-acre parcel is owned by the McDonough Corp., which wants $4 million for the property.
By optioning the site, Burdette is hoping to reach a deal with the Army National Guard for about 30 acres of the property to construct a maintenance and repair facility.
The Vandalia Foundation, a nonprofit Fairmont-based organization, also will be involved in the venture.
"Vandalia will be the lead partner and serve as project manager," Burdette said.
Burdette said it is a six-month option, at no cost and can be extended an additional 12 months. The agreement calls for the additional one-year option cost to not exceed $2,000 per month.
The development authority's option will begin Oct. 1 with the possible extension until April 2011.
"Once the option starts, so does the clock," Burdette said.
The development authority would have to put up some funding for the $4 million site, which is inside the city limits.
Burdette is hopeful the group can put the deal together - something no one else has been able to do.
"What we think the project can be exceeds any one entity," he said. "It is a great piece of property, but nobody has been able to put it together."
Burdette and city officials have been in talks with U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., and Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett of the National Guard since 2007 about an armory and events center that would partner the military with local government.
Earlier this year Mollohan submitted a request for $1 million for the planning and design of the facility. The funding is part of the congressman's $79 million 2010 appropriations request.
In addition to the million dollar request, Mollohan also submitted an estimated cost of the project - more than $39 million. Mollohan's office lists a $26 million authorization request for a facility to train and support several National Guard units in both federal and state missions and a $13.883 million request for a Parkersburg field maintenance shop to support more than 230 wheeled vehicles.
For the armory to be built on Fort Boreman Hill, the Guard will have to purchase the property. The McDonough Corp. has declined to parcel the 200-acre site, opting instead to sell it whole.
Burdette believes by optioning the property, the development authority will have the leverage needed to sell the desired land to the Guard. He said the long-term plan is for the project to become a destination location.
In addition to the armory, he thinks the area can be an attractive site for retail. The city of Parkersburg is being asked to consider hiring a research firm to perform a retail study on the area. City officials have already approved $25,000 for a land use study of Corridor D, which includes the Boreman area.
Mayor Bob Newell said the development of the hill would also require the city to fund a sewer project.
"How the city decides to participate remains to be seen," Burdette said. "I'm sure along the way there will be plenty of public and private discussion."
Burdette is expecting the completion of the project to take four years. If the armory plans go through as projected, construction on the facility could be complete by 2013.
With Vandalia, the group is also putting together a deal to bring professional baseball back to the area.
A professional team's return to Parkersburg would require a home run swing of major league proportions. Franchise fees for a Frontier League team is more than $1 million. No stadium in the area would qualify to house a professional baseball team. A new stadium would cost about $13 million.
Burdette stressed it would have to be more than just a baseball field for a pro team. It would be a place capable of hosting 200 days of events, including concerts and other entertainment opportunities.
A baseball feasibility study will be completed by April. The study will gauge interest for the baseball in the area.
"Will fans show up? Will corporations in the community pay for it? Public funding is extremely limited," Burdette said.
Burdette said the cost to taxpayers so far is nothing.
"Going forward, we don't know," he said. "We don't have anything specifically to ask anybody.
"The goal is more than two thirds of the project, maybe more, be private."
But everything hinges on the armory, he said.
"The anchor is the armory-civic center," Burdette said. "We're excited, but cautious."