Momentum continues to build toward a transformational recreation destination in the Enka-Candler area of Buncombe County. Spearheaded by Buncombe County Recreation Services, the proposed project includes several expansions and enhancements at Buncombe County Sports Park including two new miles of greenway facilitating connectivity within the Enka community and the addition of field lighting at Bob Lewis Ballpark. “Our goal is to unite several ambitious improvements into a single project that will allow us to leverage funding and stands to build on Asheville’s reputation as an outdoor recreation, sports, and athletics destination,” states Josh O’Conner, Buncombe County Recreation Services Director.
Securing Funding Together
The current price tag for the project is an estimated $12 million and includes a variety of features intended to enhance existing recreational facilities while making them easier to access by residents and visitors.
The project capitalizes on existing community investments by leveraging a substantial amount of external funding to produce a sports and athletics destination that is attractive to event organizers, players, and families while providing quality community facilities for athletic development. Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association is expected to serve as the lead partner for soccer-related improvements and Enka Youth Sports Organization will lead the Bob Lewis Ballpark additions; both partners will enhance the project through their experience and market-specific knowledge. The project will integrate the two facilities to allow activities between sporting events and attract new competitions, encouraging longer overnight stays in order to explore those facilities.
Greenway construction funding has been secured with a $4.8 million grant awarded from the Federal Highway Administration’s Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. Buncombe County has designated $1.2 million, bringing the total allocated funding to $6 million. To round out the needed project funding, Buncombe County is working with its project partners to request $6 million from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority through its Tourism Product Development Fund. Decisions regarding funding through the Tourism Product Development Fund are expected by Oct. 31, 2018. Additional funding will be raised through private donations and items available for dedication; allowing other amenities and features to be incorporated into the overall project.
Enka Heritage Trail
The backbone of the project, the Enka Heritage Trail, will create a major spoke of Buncombe County's Greenway system and advances one of the priority corridors featured in the 2012 Buncombe County Greenways Masterplan. The two-mile corridor will connect the community starting at the intersection of Sand Hill Road, and Enka Lake Road, proceeding along Hominy Creek to its intersection with Sand Hill Road, south of Warren Haynes Drive. This segment of greenway will be unique by creating a sport and athletics destination by providing a direct connection with Bob Lewis Ballpark, Buncombe County Sports Park, and future commercial retail development at Enka Center.
The Enka Heritage Trail will also focus on riparian protection and restoration along Hominy Creek and will preserve a substantial stand of native river cane. The river cane is of historical significance to the Cherokee and the greenway will highlight the area through interpretive signage while protecting river cane habitat. The greenway will also provide a conduit to connect children with adventure play programming at the Sports Park with the intent of facilitating play space in the natural environment.
Buncombe County Sports Park
Under the proposal, the Sports Park will receive a number of enhancements to maximize the space and create new opportunities for regional events. Three existing soccer fields will receive upgrades including installation of artificial turf and field lighting. With climbing visitor numbers, the Sports Park is already bursting at the seams in terms of capacity. Lighting and artificial turf will considerably extend the times the park is available for events. Bob Lewis Ballpark will also receive field lighting, creating a 30 percent increase in potential tournament events. The project will also create a new recreation field, facilitating a new space for community use and freeing an existing field for a wider range of tournament events. Plans include an athletics agility course, fitness challenge course, and an interactive four-way multipurpose court for the space adjacent to the new recreational field.
Upgraded trails will facilitate better movement between holes of the park's 18-hole disc golf course while providing new community walking trails. A new pavilion and bathrooms near the entrance of the Sports Park will open the park up to a wider range of events and facilitate tournament scheduling for the top field (which is typically unused due to the distance to the existing bathrooms). The pavilion will also make Buncombe County Sports Park a destination for nature and agricultural learning with a Wi-Fi connection and space to host classes and demonstrations connected to the existing community garden, urban orchard, and nursery. A dog park will also increase the amenities offered within the area providing a contained off-leash area for park users with dogs.
Contact Josh O'Conner for sponsorship or more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association
Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission