WEST CHESTER, Ohio (AP) — There are big plans for a 435-acre park in a northern Cincinnati suburb. But they require big money.
The Voice of America MetroPark in West Chester Township has begun work on a $3 million first phase of expansion that will bring 22 new natural-turf multipurpose fields. Park officials expect them to be regional drawing cards for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, cricket tournaments. There are also plans for tournament-ready baseball and softball fields.
The Butler County Visitors Bureau has put in $1 million, with the rest from the park system that has taxpayer funding from a 2010 levy. Millions more are needed to add fields and a fieldhouse with concession stand and bathrooms, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports (http://cin.ci/11hxg2X ).
Park officials also envision an amphitheater for concerts, and would like to use artificial turf for some fields to handle heavy tournament use. Turf estimates are $5 million. The sports tournaments will also require new parking lot.
Any park development grants are scarce, so private support will be needed.
“It’s largely driven by our ability to interest partners and sponsors in this,” said Jon Granville, MetroParks executive director. “Our plans are not to go back to our local taxpayers and ask them for more money every time we come up with a good idea.”
Officials have approached some fund prospects, and there have been discussions of selling naming rights for the sport complex and amphitheater. It’s estimated that when up and running and bringing tournament players and their families to the area hotels, restaurants and retailers, the complex within five years would have a $26 million annual economic impact.
“It will bring more people into West Chester. I’m sure of that, and the economy needs that,” said Barb Wykoff, a resident who was using a walking trail around the fishing lake recently.
Granville said park planners will balance the expansion with the needs of regular park visitors who come there to walk, fish, and use other facilities. Local teams will be able to reserve fields during the week, while tournaments will be played on weekends.
The park is named for the Voice of America relay station here that sent shortwave radio programming around the globe starting in World War II. There is a museum on land fronting the park along Tylersville Road near Interstate 75.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com