Excitement is building in Colonial Beach and folks are ready to begin fund-raising for the proposed Torrey Smith Rec-Center, to be built on the Water Tower Ball Field, centrally located in Colonial Beach.
However Councilman Steve Cirbee had some sobering remarks concerning the site work, needed to prepare for the construction of two basketball and tennis courts.
The project proposed, comes with an estimated cost of $256,000.00 according to Town Manager Quinn Robertson. Torrey Smith has committed to provide up to $186,000.00 for the court construction.
However Cirbee brought up that the site plans and price tag presented at the May Council meeting did not include site work, which could add up to $100,000.00 to the project.
The water tower ball field holds a lot of fond memories for residents of Colonial Beach. Even for those who have moved away, like NFL Football Player, Torrey Smith who grew up in Colonial Beach as a young boy.
Born on January 26, 1989 Smith often played basketball on the school's blacktop which was located at the old school campus off of Douglas Ave. Perpendicular to the old school campus sits the Water Tower Ball Field. This field has been used for baseball and softball for many years. It stopped being utilized by the school a few years ago after the last remaining students were moved and housed at the campus located on 1st Street.
The field was property of the school system and was turned over to the town to be sold. Proceeds from the sale of the property were slated go into the town's general fund, to help pay back money used in the construction of the elementary school, completed recently at the First Street campus.
Smith is now an NFL Wide Receiver for the Carolina Panthers. He has played for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. He also played college football at the University of Maryland. But his career in football would be shaped by his elementary days in Colonial Beach under Coach Steve Swope attending athletic camps. Swope recognized Smith's potential and allowed him to attend for free.
Now Torrey Smith wants to give back to his community by offering to donate up to $189,000 to build two basketball and two tennis courts, providing a place for today's youths to enjoy after-school sports.
Location, Location, Location
The field sits on high ground so flooding should not be an issue, but the level ground has no grade for run off so Cirbee is concerned that puddling will ruin the courts within a few short years.
It is also located in the downtown area of Colonial Beach making it centrally accessible to kids living on the point as well as on the numbered streets.
The field served for many years as the main area for baseball and even football during CB's early years. The water-tower-field is located across from the site of numerous former schools. Including the Primary building which now serves as town hall.
Prior to 2015 the property perpendicular from the field housed the old gymnasium (lovingly referred to as the cracker box) and the old two-story building that served as the high school and later the middle school.
Both the high school and gym had to be torn down after they were destroyed in an early morning fire on Jan 5, 2014. Now the property sits vacant and is owned by the town. The school system transferred ownership of all the lots to the town, hoping the sale would help offset the construction cost of the new elementary school located at 100 first street.
The first street complex now hold all levels of school for Colonial Beach and sports several fields for football and baseball.
Presentation of plan and costs
Colonial Beach Town Manager Quinn Robertson presented a proposed plan for the rec-center, to the council members at the May 16 regular meeting.
The rec-center would feature two basketball courts, two tennis courts. Also included in the plans is a pavilion for shade, resting and eating. A concrete pad currently located on the site would serve as the location for public restrooms.
Robertson began by saying, “As everybody knows we have been in discussions with Torrey Smith in order to create a rec-center basketball court venue for the town. It was identified by Coach Swope that since the burning of the old school there really hasn't been an outdoor basketball court for kids and citizens to utilize.”
Originally the town looked at property on the current school campus located at 100 First Street. The first proposed location was on the site where the temporary elementary mod pods had previously been placed, during the elementary school's construction. However issues arose that made the location at the water tower a much better choice.
According to Robertson, Torrey Smith liked the water tower field because it is centrally located between both town hall and the police department as well as close to the beach, making it an excellent location.
Robertson said both he and Smith made multiple phone calls seeking out just the right builder for the project. The two settled on one company that provided a good price, quality work and the ability to complete the project this summer.
The layout presented for the courts would keep the sun from being in the eyes of players using them. This boosted Robertson's confidence in their choice of builders.
The two tennis courts will be co-located adjacent to the basketball courts, separated by a pavilion.
A preexisting concrete pad would serve as a great location for public restrooms and a small playground would be provided for people with younger siblings to keep occupied.
There will also be fencing located around the total lot.
Constructing the basketball and tennis courts will cost between $183,000.00 to $186,000.00. The concrete walkways will run about $10,000.00 and the playground will cost an additional $26,000.00 with the pavilion being about the same. Robertson estimates the total build cost at about $250,000.00. “I think it's $256,000.00 to be exact.”
Robertson added that Smith's public relations manager has reached out to a group in California who may be willing to help with the cost of the project.
Coach Swope has already began fund-raising for the project. “Although Smith is willing to put in up to $189,000.00 he wants the community to feel a part of the project.” Robertson said.
“His philosophy is that he wants the community to chip in so everybody has some skin in the game. So we take ownership in the building and we come together as a collective, as a town.”
Describing the proposed project, Robertson said, “We're not talking 1980's blacktop, we're looking at resort level facilities which should last at least 10 years.”
Special features include, proposed fencing that will blend into the background and not be obtrusive, basketball hoops will have glass backing and upscale equipment.
Adding tennis courts will diversify the site allowing the school to start a tennis team if desired. Having the pavilion and playground will make the area more community oriented. Robertson recommends having charcoal grills and picnic tables to allow families to rest and relax as well as host family events such as birthday parties or family reunions.
Robertson explained that since the town already owns the property the cost of purchase is not needed. The project does not need a council vote, however Robertson said he was seeking the councils blessing to continue with the project.
Cost estimate doesn't include site work
Councilman Stephen Cirbee brought up concerns over costs that had not been addressed in Robertson's presentation. Cirbee cited land development work that would need to take place before the construction of the courts ever began.
Cirbee said he is in full agreement with the plan however he cautioned, “I will be the one to bring up the full picture, this is not the complete price.”
The project price given by the town manager did not include storm drainage, Cirbee said. “The property up there holds water now. All they're going to do is come in and put a concrete pad on the existing grade. If we are going to do this we need to do it right.”
Cirbee said the town needs to hire a civil engineer or zoning administrator and create a storm drainage plan, to address drainage, sidewalks, curb and gutters.
Cirbee added the price does not address parking, or include cost of bathrooms, windscreen or center rail, fencing, lighting or bathroom demo or removal of existing dirt. “This is the price just to build the courts and the pavilion, no site improvements are included.”
“I'm not trying to say don't do it, I'm saying we need to get our arms around the entire cost. We gutted the capital improvement plan to pass the budget, there are no dollars there. We're not talking about ten grand for Coach Swope to go out and find to put a net on this thing. We could be talking a hundred grand to get the site ready for this fella to come in with this scope of work. It's not ready to start tomorrow.”
Cirbee said he is an advocate and would love to see it done but he wants council members and citizens to see all the things that need to be done to make the rec center become a reality.
Robertson said the plans were in the early stages adding, “Coach Swope is confident he can raise the money by August.”
Cirbee reiterated that the cost does not include the site-prep, “If the work is not done heavy rain will cause the area to be flooded leaving the courts as islands. An engineer could cost 10 grand easy plus the hard cost of what is necessary to create the ball fields.”
It was suggested that the town use public works to grade the parking area and put down gravel.
Cirbee responded, “The parking is actually a gulch” adding, “It is very easy to say, 'public works can take care of that'. First of all public works is having trouble maintaining what it's got right now. And just because public works can do something, doesn't mean it's cost effective and it doesn't mean it costs us nothing. It costs us. So we have to be careful throwing public works around just to fill a leaky tub.”
Strike while the iron is hot
Mayor Eddie Blunt said the location was chosen for several reasons. Putting the courts at the school campus on First Street raised concerns of liability for the school. The chosen field, once belonged to the school system but has since been offered to the town and put up for sale. The proceeds of the sale were intended to go towards the repayment of the school's loans for new school construction.”
According to Blunt the site has had no interest from prospective buyers.
In response to Cirbee's and other's concerns Blunt said, “I hate to see us lose an opportunity. Obviously timing is everything. If we were flush with cash right now it would be an easy issue.”
“We have a gentleman dedicated to the town willing to put up a large part of the cost and the town should take advantage of it.”
Regarding extra funding needed for site work Blunt said, “I don't think it is something we can't get past. I think the opportunity to let this gentlemen build something in the community that nurtured him and he wants to give back, is something that we have to do as a community. What ever we have to do to get there.”
Cirbee said, “You don't have to sell me, I'm an advocate, I just want everyone to know the facts.”
Blunt said the next thing we need to do is reach out to a civil engineer. Cirbee suggested asking Public Works Director, Rob Murphy to suggest one who has background knowledge of the area.
Cirbee asked for clarification, “We are going to get an engineer and a complete cost estimate?”
Council agreed that would be their next step and all members gave Robertson their blessing to proceed with the project.
Donations can be made online at http://colonialbeachfoundation.org or by mailing your check payable to Colonial Beach Foundation to PO Box 375, Colonial Beach VA 22443. Your donations through the CBF are tax-deductible as within the limits of State & Federal Law and IRS Code 501(c)(3).