BUCKHANNON — Land ho! The Upshur County Recreation Complex has its eye on land suitable for construction and negotiations are under way.
Shawn Tucker, president of the board of directors of the nonprofit,told the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce Monday, the board has entered into negotiations with an area landowner to purchase approximately 70 acres.
“We are in the very early phases but he is willing to sell us the property, so that is definitely a lot of steps closer than we were,” he said. “He is willing to enter into a purchase agreement.”
Acquiring land is a big hurdle in the overall process and Tucker said overcoming that hurdle will help the project gain further momentum.
If the deal is finalized, then the design could go from conceptual to a final version which would further help in the fundraising and grant search process.
Tucker spent Monday’s presentation outlining the brief history of the board and how chamber members and the public can get involved.
“We were formed in February 2017 as a nonprofit corporation and designated as a public charity under 501c3 of the IRS tax code,” he said. “This means any donations made to the Upshur County Wellness Complex are tax-deductible.”
The organization is overseen by a board of directors with four officers: Tucker, vice president Keely Burnside, secretary Amanda Nesbitt and a vacant treasurer position, and four at-large members.
Memberships are available at several levels ranging from corporate at $300 a year to individual memberships at $25 a year.
The membership provides a vote at quarterly membership meetings and the annual membership meeting.
“Basically, membership into the nonprofit provides you a voice in determining the future of the endeavor,” he said.
Members put a lot of thought into how the organization should be structured and what would work best for community support for a long-dreamed recreation complex.
“In previous years, the approach was to go to the city and county governments and say ‘we want to build this’ and hand it over,” according to Tucker.
“We decided to go with the nonprofit approach with our main thought being not relying on a levy from the city or county,” he said. “I think that will grow a lot of appeal from a lot of people that it’s not going to raise your taxes.
“One of the benefits of the nonprofit approach is the ability to offer tax incentives,” he said. “I think under our public charity status, tax donations up to 50 percent of your annual income are tax deductible to our organization.”
Another benefit is the ability to more easily engage in partnerships with private corporations,” he said. “When you are dealing with the city and the county, it’s not impossible to enter into business with private corporations but the nonprofit approach, I think makes that easier. There are some regulations that we don’t have to hurdle that cities and counties do.”
Fewer regulatory hurdles are also an advantage of being a nonprofit including not having to put contracts out to bid, pay prevailing wage or being able to enter into naming contracts.
“I think people in general are more willing to donate to a nonprofit that is doing something good in the city or the county rather than giving money to the city or the county,” he said.
“In order to get support from the community, this approach definitely has some validity to it.”
The conception design which was unveiled over the summer in a community meeting held at the Event Center at Brushy Fork focuses on fields that are needed by the existing soccer, baseball and football leagues.
There is an indoor turf facility, outdoor turf field, indoor gymnasium, beach volleyball and more.
Tucker stressed that the design is still fluid and recommendations are welcome.
“As a whole, the board of directors is willing to put anything in that will make the complex better,” he said.
The reasoning behind the recreation complex is to improve the quality of life for Upshur County residents.
“One of the big benefits of the facility is that it will provide better recreational opportunities for everybody,” he said.
“Our goal in developing this is to have some mixture of revenue-producing items – like the indoor turf facility we can rent out for birthday parties or indoor leagues, and then have things that are open to the public.”
Even the revenue-producing facilities would have public hours.
“We really want it to be something for everybody to use,” he said.
The second benefit is improved facilities for athletics to help the youth and adult leagues.
“I think it’s important to have better facilities for those,” he said. “It’s always a struggle to find space so this would definitely help aid in that pursuit.”
If Upshur County could host tournaments for youth teams, it would see a boost in the economy, according to Tucker.
“One of the big drivers of the stimulus would be youth athletic tournaments,” he said.
“The nationwide trend is for youth athletics to go towards more of a travel-oriented league rather than a recreational youth league model.”
Barboursville, outside of Huntington, hosts a three-day youth soccer tournament that was the subject of a 2014 economic impact study.
The study showed that tournament brought $15 million to the Barboursville economy over a three-day period.
“When you look at getting 200 teams to an event, those people are going to stay here, eat here and shop here,” he said. “When you have a tournament with that many teams, there is a lot of down time.”
“There’s a lot of economic activity that can be generated,” he said. “It would be difficult to say starting right out of the gate that we are going to generate that type of economic activity, but even if we could generate $1 million starting out – think of what that would do for the community.”
That is why the committee wants to do an economic study of its own to predict what could be generated for Upshur County.
“I think that goes a long way when you are dealing with larger corporations to show what is the benefit,” he said.
An ancillary benefit of the complex would be that it could be used as a recruiting tool for business development.
“This would be a definite plus to be able to point that out and say while your families are here, we have this nice recreation complex that they can do youth sports or use the walking track,” Tucker said.
Fundraising is ongoing.
In addition to the memberships, the complex board held a 5K in September with 41 registered participants.
“I think overall for our first fundraiser it was a success,” he said. Next up, a Vera Bradley bingo is being organized. The public can get involved by joining, volunteering for a fundraiser and donating.
To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit upshurrecreationcomplex.org. Meetings are held the second Monday monthly at Chapman Technical Group – at 7 p.m.