By DAVID BORAKS
Developers are trying to assemble several parcels of land off I-77 Service Road in the Exit 28 area for a proposed Cornelius Sports Complex, which could include athletic courts, office buildings and a medical office building.
Sports Village Inc. submitted a proposed site plan to the town in November, and town officials have begun talking about the project publicly. But the developers say they are still negotiating with property owners, primarily members of the Blakely family, to assemble a total of 35 acres. If they don’t succeed, they could opt for another site, possibly in Gaston County, said Jay Martin, a spokesman for the development group.
Martin said the project includes a 24-acre site already under contract, as well as three other parcels. “We have pulled the application based on the fact that some of the land owners are not in a consensus,” he said Friday. “If we can come to terms great, if not, obviously that puts that site plan in jeopardy.”
The multi-sport complex would have courts for competitive and recreational basketball, volleyball, and futsal (a form of indoor soccer), as well as a fitness and training center and retail space. He said there’s nothing like it in the area around Charlotte, though similar businesses have succeeded elsewhere around the country.
The multiple buildings would total about 120,000 square feet for sports and fitness as well as 180,000 square feet of office space. The site is along the I-77 service road, south of Chartwell Center Drive and the Hyundai dealership, and just south of another parcel that is to be developed as the Life Fellowship Church. The proposed office buildings would be visible from I-77
Town officials have already obtained a preliminary traffic study. And they are interested in the plan’s proposal to connect the I-77 Service Road with Lake Pines Drive.
The property is currently zoned Rural Preservation, and would need a change to “Business Campus” to proceed. But the rezoning can’t proceed until the developers get purchase contracts on all the parcels.
Martin said the complex might be possible on just the 24-acre piece already under contract, but that would require re-doing the site plan. And it would not include the Lake Pines Drive connection.
The 24-acre parcel had been owned by Annie Blakely, who passed away in December at age 99.
John Blakely said he and other family members are currently reviewing contracts, but he thinks the project would be an “asset to the town.” But even before Annie Blakely’s death, family members have not agreed on what should happen to the parcels, which have been passed down through the family.
Martin said the Cornelius site is his first choice. “We’re waiting to try to get a consensus on those other pieces, without redrawing our plans,” he said. “Or we go to Gaston County. We’ve got some property off I-85. That is our Plan B.
Cornelius officials are hoping the project will come together as planned. It’s a vacant site between the auto dealership and the church on the north and an auto body repair business to the south.
“Given how much of the Blakely property is remaining, where it is situated and what’s adjacent, I think it’s a pretty solid use,” said Don Harrow, the town’s economic development consultant.
He said other groups have expressed interest in the site for “different variations of a sports complex. … From a market perspective … there’s demand for more court space, and certainly if not in Cornelius specifically, the broader north Mecklenburg market.”
A sports complex in town also would provide a new venue to help Visit Lake Norman, the regional tourism promotion group, or others to lure regional and national sports tournaments to the area, Harrow said. And it’s not far from Exit 28 and its restaurants and hotels.
Wayne Herron, Cornelius’s town planner, said the project’s fate depends on the land deals required to make it happen. “We have conducted some site plan reviews and worked on some technical items with the applicant, but until they resolve the property issues, board meetings are simply on hold,” he said.
It’s not clear when the developers might secure the land they need. Martin said once that happens, he expects the complex could quickly win town approval and open for business within about 18 months thereafter.
RELATED COVERAGE AND LINKS
Documents on Cornelius.org
Feb. 7, 2012, “Board approves zoning for 17-acre worship campus”