More than a decade after it was first proposed, the Friendship Sportsplex – an outdoor recreation area built by Mecklenburg County and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church – has officially opened.
At a ceremony Tuesday, officials praised the 40-acre park as a successful example of public-private partnership.
The complex includes two baseball fields, a walking trail (still under construction), a concessions shelter, picnic area, playground, toilets and parking.
Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges said the project still may not be completed.
“There’s actually more land here, so we’ve got the capability to do more things,” he told Qcitymetro. “It could be tennis courts, if everybody wants them. So we’re going to really work with the church to see what else we might be able to do on the site.”
The park cost county taxpayers $2 million, according to Park and Recreation, which will manage the facility. The church put up an additional $285,000.
The deal calls for Friendship to lease the site for $1 per year for 40 years, with an automatic, 40-year renewal. The park sits behind the church on McAllister Drive, in a wooded area just off Beatties Ford Road,
“We’re very, very fortunate to have a strong partner like Friendship Baptist,” Garges said. “From the get-go, it was not just about, ‘Well, this is good for the church members.’ It was, ‘We want to do something good for this neighborhood.’”
Under the deal, Friendship will get first dibs on the park for special church events, but anyone may reserve the park, Garges said.
“If you’re close and you’ve got your kids and you want to come out and play baseball and no one’s using it, come on,” he said.
Garges said the project, like others throughout the county, was delayed by the 2007 recession. He said the Friendship Sportsplex will be a model for similar projects.
“We’ve got needs that exist in every type of recreational amenity we offer, whether its swimming pools, picnic tables, everything – baseball fields,” he said. “We just don’t have enough because the county is growing.”