The opening of Abingdon’s sports complex at The Meadows shows once again that small towns with a vision can accomplish big things.
The 34-acre complex with four baseball/softball fields, two regulation-sized soccer fields and another half-sized soccer field is an example of a town looking at ways to creatively build its economy. Abingdon is using some land left over from the development of a shopping center to construct an environmentally-friendly attraction that will bring tourist dollars while also adding value to the community as a whole. The complex also includes a playground, a walking track around the perimeter of the complex and a picnic area.
The town’s location off I-81 with a wealth of restaurants and lodging options makes for a perfect fit for a sports complex looking to attract travel tournaments to the area. The plan appears to be working; as Abingdon Mayor Derek Webb said, the complex is booked up through the end of the season. The almost $12 million invested to build the facility is already beginning to return dividends. Webb calls the facility a game changer for the town. He’s right. This new sports complex has the potential to introduce hundreds of new families to the area each year. The benefits won’t stop in Abingdon. Those families will make their way to State Street, where they will explore Bristol’s attractions as well as other key tourist sites in the Tri-Cities area.
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But the sports complex didn’t come without much debate and compromise. The development sits on the site of The Meadows plantation and a home site where two former governors lived. Some residents opposed the complex because they wanted to preserve the plantation. Also in the mix was Food City. The regional grocery store chain wanted to build a new store and shopping center in the area. The compromise was good for all, as the town rezoned land to build the Food City and the shopping center, Food City donated $2.2 million for the town to purchase the property for the sports complex, and the home of the two governors is being kept by the town. Last May, the town was planning to extend electrical service and install a new HVAC system in the home. There doesn’t seem to be a solid plan for how to use the house at this point.
This type of public-private cooperation to build recreation facilities, parks, concert halls and other community-focused projects is something other municipalities can learn from.
It’s too bad the opening of the facility was hampered by cold temperatures and even a few snowflakes during the weekend opening. There will be many sunny days when the citizens of Abingdon can look at what has been accomplished on an empty field and feel a deep sense of community pride.