Wilmington Leaders To Weigh Another $1.4M For Sports Complex

By Emma Dill, posted Nov 28, 2023
A rendering shows a completed field at the nCino Sports Complex. (File image)
Wilmington leaders will consider putting an additional $1.4 million toward the nCino Sports Complex on Tuesday. 

The funding would allow the city and contractor T.A. Loving Co. to address soil cover issues encountered on the complex’s southern end. The cost of the complex has climbed in recent years, as plans have progressed.

More money is needed to revise the site’s grading plan and to bring in more soil for the site, Matt Hart, a senior project manager in the city’s engineering department told council members on Monday. 

Located behind Cape Fear Pick N Pull off Sutton Steam Plant Road, the completed project will include 11 athletic fields, including at least one synthetic turf field. Other improvements will include a restroom building, lights for several fields along with parking and landscaping. 

Construction on the complex began in January. The soil issues began to crop up in March when grading turned up waste from a landfill that operated on the site until the late 1970s, now buried. 

“This site was originally an unregulated landfill and as part of the remediation program that was in place prior to the city taking possession of the land, the site was to be covered with 18 inches of topsoil,” Deputy City Manager Thom Morton told the council on Monday. “What we discovered subsequently during our construction process (is) that uniform depth did not exist.”

Once discovered, city staff worked to determine the soil depth across the site through a process called “potholing,” Hart said. They also worked with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to try to secure a variance allowing less than 18 inches of topsoil on certain portions of the site. That effort was ultimately unsuccessful, according to Hart.

The additional $1.4 million will fund the change order for T.A. Loving Co. and allow the development of a revised grading plan. The funding will come from the Riverfront Park bond project contingency funds with the rest coming from the debt service fund and interest earnings.

Although city leaders haven’t determined the exact cause of the uneven topsoil, it’s likely the result of settling or erosion, Morton said. He said the differing depths weren’t initially realized because they vary across the site.

“If it was uniformly throughout the site, it would have been easy to detect,” Morton said. “The inconsistency and the sporadic nature of the covering is what really led to it.”

Work on the project is about 50% complete, according to Hart, with substantial completion expected in fall 2024. Last year, the Wilmington City Council approved a supplemental appropriation to the city’s parks and recreation capital fund of more than $5 million to cover another funding gap in the project. 

Last fall, the city awarded more than $12 million to  T.A. Loving Co. to cover the project’s construction. With the additional $1.4 million, the price tag of the project's design and construction totals $17.6 million. Despite the increases, Morton urged the council to recognize and celebrate the city’s work in bringing the complex to fruition.

“This is land that probably would have remained fallow,” Morton said, “had it not been probably for the city council choosing to make this brownfield one of the signature recreation facilities in the Southeast.”

The project was initially included in the city’s 2016 Parks Bond, which included $10 million for the complex. The 64-acre site was donated to the city of Wilmington in 2019 by youth soccer club Wilmington Hammerheads FC. The city also has a sponsorship agreement with nCino with the company agreeing to pay $1.3 million for naming rights over a 10 year period.

As part of the land donation, the Hammerheads and city entered into a 17-year management agreement. Per the agreement, the Hammerheads and city will evenly split revenue earned at the park, including concessions and event-based rental fees. For the first two years after the park is complete, the city will keep all revenue before the 50-50 split begins.
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