A group of Swannanoa Valley residents hope to breathe new life into the old Beacon Mill site by constructing an indoor sports complex on a portion of the vacant property. With nearly $40,000 in funding from private donors and the Buncombe County Sports Commission, the group is moving forward with a feasibility study for the project. It’s hoped that the sports complex would draw youth travel teams from throughout the southeast to compete in weekend tournaments. On weekdays, the facility would serve the local community, with flexible recreation space that could be used for basketball, indoor soccer, pickleball, volleyball, dodgeball, and cheerleading. On-site sports medicine and cardiac rehab facilities are also under consideration.
The feasibility study is being conducted by Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisors, and is expected to be completed in late June. If a decision is made to proceed with the $20 million project, funding will be sought from a variety of public and private sources. Since it’s expected that the sports complex will be operated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it’s important that the feasibility study show that the facility can break even financially within a few years. Chip Craig, one of the Swannanoa Valley residents spearheading the project, said that other critical “must haves” from the feasibility study include a finding that the project will bring substantial benefits to the community, and that it will have a positive impact on economic development and tourism.
Preliminary plans for the complex show a 100,000-square-foot building with multiple playing courts, along with parking spaces for close to 500 vehicles. The facility would be situated toward the back end of the Beacon Mill property, close to the railroad tracks. The complex would take up only 15 of the 40+ acres at the site, leaving the additional acreage available for further development that could benefit the Swannanoa community. The project organizers hope the sports complex would spur growth and revitalization in Swannanoa, including in the old downtown area that borders the Beacon Mill site.
The mill site has been vacant since 2003, when an arsonist started a massive fire that burned the mill buildings nearly to the ground. A prior plan by Mountain Housing Opportunities to build a mixed use development on the site fell through in 2013.