The Durham City Council has approved $8.6 million for the construction of the Hoover Road Park Project, a proposal by the Parks & Recreation Department to build four soccer fields for tournaments off N.C. 98.
The project, which totals $9.5 million, is planned for North Hoover Road, directly across from the Wheels Fun Park.
In January 2017, Durham City purchased the two parcels for the project. Totaling 50 acres at 632 N. Hoover Rd. and 621 Cheek Rd., the parcels’ assessed value were $267,660 and $574,950, according to tax records. Durham City bought them for $1.25 million.
Since then, Hoover Road Park Project has been in the design phase. With the city council’s approval of the $8.6 million, the project moves into build and Parks & Rec has opened the project up to bids. Construction is slated to begin in July and last for about 16 months, according to the department.
Tom Dawson, assistant director of Durham Parks & Rec, said on Tuesday that a private school had previously wanted to build a baseball field at the site. Because of that, it is already graded and ready for construction.
“One thing with having four fields is we can do a lot more tournaments. So that opens up the ability to run multiple games at once,” Dawson said.
The project calls for four natural turf soccer fields, a practice field, a playground and shelter, restrooms and maintenance building, sidewalks and parking, and walking trails.
In addition to that, Dawson said the funding also will go toward artwork at the entrance.
“With every capital improvements project, we are authorized to use some funds to develop some major art project,” he said.
“I think the community will be able to put their stamp on this project,” he added. “It will be towards the front of the entrance, and we’ll have a lot of fun with community development.”
“We also want art to serve a purpose,” Dawson said. “We really want the art at the entrance to lead people in from the road. We want sculptural art. It will be appropriate, exciting, inclusive art that we can do to really mark the site as something that’s really ‘Durham.’”
Dawson said there is also a lack of soccer fields in Durham for people who like the sport.
“With our master plan, we found that we had a large deficit of soccer fields. And that was the deficit that we were hoping to help fill with this Hoover Road. We’re still behind the curve for a population of this size. There’s a lot for demand for soccer. There’s a lot of people who want to play soccer but can’t because we don’t have soccer fields.”
According to Parks & Rec, the general population needs one soccer field per 10,000 people, and Durham currently has 14 soccer fields.
Durham City and Parks & Rec did a master plan of recreation needs in 2013. In that plan, Durham residents surveyed said the top four “most important” facilities provided by Parks & Rec were, in order, trails and greenways, recreation centers, playgrounds and a tie between athletic fields and city lakes.
New outdoor facilities most preferred by respondents were an outdoor pool with water play features and an outdoor amphitheater.
In the same plan, new soccer fields were slated for the Twin Lakes Park, located nearby on Chandler Road. That park has one artificial turf soccer field, which Parks & Rec has temporarily closed because of COVID-19. Only tennis courts, pickleball courts and disc golf courses are open in city parks.
The 2013 master plan also identified Twin Lakes Park as the best option for developing new soccer fields.
“Twin Lakes is the best option because it is the most developable and has the least conflict with surrounding uses: on the additional 24 acres just acquired adjacent to the existing soccer field at that park, another three to four fields with associated parking is possible,” stated the plan.
The city council approved the $8.6 million for Hoover Road Park Project to go toward Skanska Inc. at the April 20 meeting, with a contingency fund of $215,000 for a total of $8.8 million.
At the city council’s work session on April 9, when the proposal was discussed, Councilwoman DeDreana Freeman expressed confusion about the project.
“I’m not familiar with the Hoover Road project. I think there was something a couple years ago that came up. I’m not sure if this is the same,” she said.
Mayor Steve Schewel expressed excitement for the project.
“I am super excited about this. I am so excited that we are going to be building these fields. That is awesome,” he said. “Congratulations to administration for pushing through this and being so opportunistic in acquiring the land.”
The council approved funding for the project unanimously.