Since park bond failed, Indian Trail has to find new way to keep company in town
In order to keep Carolina Courts in Indian Trail, the town council has to decide how to fund guarantees made last year. On Oct. 5, Carolina Courts signed a letter of intent, stating the company wanted to remain in Indian Trail. The problem, as council members heard during their Tuesday, Feb. 28 meeting, is that Indian Trail’s portion of the agreement was to be funded with money from the proposed park bond, which voters rejected in November.
“With the park bond, (that’s) where the resources were going to come from,” town manager Joe Fivas told the council. “Out of our general budget, we don’t necessarily have the resources to be able to do that. There’s gonna have to be some movement from the town to fulfill some of the obligations in the letter of intent.”
The company can’t stay at its current location, 7210 Stinson Hartis Road, as its directly in the path of the Monroe Bypass. The letter of intent calls for the company to build a three acre facility either adjacent to or within the town’s 51 acre property. As part of the deal, Indian Trail residents will be able to use Carolina Courts facilities free for 15 to 20 hours a week. Also, the town worked with the county to get water and sewer capacity from the current Carolina Courts facility transferred to the new facility free of charge. The county usually has a fee assessed with the transfer. Indian Trail also agreed to help with the cost of some of the infrastructure needed. Without the money from the park bond, the council needed to examine other options and discuss what they would be willing to do, Fivas said.
“We need to keep Carolina Courts here,” council member Darlene Luther said. “If the bond passed, we’d be all set, but it didn’t. Now we’re going to (need a) Plan B.”
Town economic development coordinator Kelly Barnhardt said that since the letter of intent was signed, other communities, including the city of Charlotte, have come forward and made offers to Carolina Courts. Since the letter of intent is non-binding, the company could go elsewhere if Indian Trail can’t meet the terms of the agreement.
“They have questions on (the) timeline, funding and the overall process (with Indian Trail),” Barnhardt told council members.
Currently, Carolina Courts operates out of a 45,000 sq. ft facility, bringing in 150,000 people annually. Out of that total, 30,000 live within 20 miles of the facility. 110,000 live within a 90 minute commute and the final 10,000 live outside of a 90 minute drive. With the planned move to a larger 55,000 sq. ft facility, those numbers are estimated to climb to 200,000 people.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte economics professor John Connaughton recently released a study that showed Carolina Courts generates slightly under half of the traffic from youth sports in the Charlotte area. All total, 381,000 people annually attend youth sporting events, including the AAU basketball tournaments at Carolina Courts, generating $232 million. The 150,000 coming to Carolina Courts accounts for 39.3 percent of the market.
“My approach to this really is contingent on Carolina Courts,” council member Chris King said. “The whole dynamic of that area will change if they decide not to stay here. After we have a commitment, then lets talk about it.”
Indian Trail had been waiting on Carolina Courts to receive the buyout offer from the Turnpike Authority, to determine how much help the company would need in a move. The company has since received the offer and are currently discussing it with their attorneys. Mayor Michael Alvarez suggested that the town start thinking about a plan on how to keep the company.
“With people knocking at their door, they obviously have little packets of bling to hand them,” Alvarez said of efforts to lure the company out of town. “Meanwhile, we’re sitting here saying we’re just gonna wait for you to have your offer.”
If the only way to fund the project turns out to be another bond, council member David Waddell suggested the town expand beyond just Carolina Courts and look to build a Sportsplex on the 51-acre parcel, with other sports related companies joining.
“If we’re going to do another park bond, if it comes to that, I think it would be easier to sell as a sports themed park bond,” Waddell said. If not a park bond, he suggested a multi-jurisdictional effort, working with Stallings on a Sportsplex.
Town officials said they also hope to attract quality restaurants and additional sports/recreational facilities near the 51 acres, as well as possibly a hotel.
“There have been several developers that have been looking at this property,” Barnhardt said, speaking of land adjacent to the 51 acre site. “I have been in talks for probably a year now because I did want to encourage that development.”
Barnhardt said she hoped to meet with Carolina Courts in the immediate future, to get more information so the town can move forward with options.