Rockingham County Supervisors talk Rec Center decision

Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 6:26 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Last week the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to move forward with plans to build a county rec center at Rockingham Park. WHSV spoke with two of the supervisors on Thursday about why they voted the way they did.

District 2 Supervisor Sallie Wolfe-Garrison said that the rec center project is a longtime coming.

“This is a project that has been in existence in the comprehensive plan for that park since its existence of 2014. The changing position for this instance now as far as timing is that there is now a funding stream that was not available at the time of the overall planning of that park,” said Wolfe-Garrison.

The rec center will be built using tourism money generated by the county’s transient occupancy tax which taxes those who stay in lodging like hotels and campgrounds in the county. The county is required to use at least 60% of the funds generated from that tax on tourism related projects.

Wolfe-Garrison said that the rec center does qualify as a tourism project and that it will offer a number of benefits.

“It’s going to be a centrally located facility for our families who utilize the rec programming, for the kids K through basically 6th grade and there’s a great deal of adult programming. This will be a facility that can accommodate those uses that we currently don’t have in the county,” she said.

Board Chair and District 1 Supervisor Dewey Ritchie was the lone vote against the Rec Center. He said his primary concern is that it could take business away from Horizon’s Edge Sports Campus in Harrisonburg.

“This would put us in a competition with them and I am not in favor of local government, state government, whatever, interfering with being a competitor to a private business,” said Ritchie.

Ritchie noted that Horizon’s Edge has already been dealing with some struggles since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I just can’t get over the hurdle of us as a government competing with a private business. When those people have, as anybody, when you invest you expect to get a return on your money. That was their dream and we should not be in competition with that,” he said.

Ritchie said he also has concerns about how cost effective the center will be and said he is skeptical of how much tourism revenue it will actually bring to the county.

“I think my colleagues think that this is going to draw in a lot of people and they’ll spend money here. But where are they going to stay? It would be in the City of Harrisonburg. Where are the major eating establishments? In the City of Harrisonburg. So in my view we’re not going to be reaping those tax dollars the city will, and nothing against the city, that’s great for them but that’s where I’m at on this,” he said.

The County has selected Broadway based Lantz Construction to build the Rec Center.

“Not only is it a facility that’s going to have an end project but it is actually a job creator for Rockingham County. This will be creating secure positions in the skilled trades which of course the county is supportive of. So this really is a community center being built by the community but it’s not being paid for by the community,” said Wolfe-Garrison.

Construction of the Rec Center is expected to take around a full year once it begins.

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