DUNBAR, W.Va. — As construction crews worked off in the distance, Kanawha County children dug the ceremonial first holes at the future site of the Shawnee Park Multi-Sports Complex during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
The complex will include six turf soccer and lacrosse fields, four baseball and softball fields and a new community building. It also includes renovations to park structures such as its basketball court. The complex would be capable of hosting local and regional youth sports tournaments and events.
The site has served multiple uses in its history, most recently being a golf course.
The Kanawha County Commission has pushed the project since Ben Salango took office in February. Salango has previously credited youth sports as having a positive influence on his childhood, and said such a facility could spur local economic development.
“To have this project and move it forward and finally be able to break ground is very exciting not just for me, but for the people of Kanawha County,” he said.
Dunbar Mayor Bill Cunningham, who took office in August, said the complex will put Dunbar on the map and increase tourism in the Kanawha Valley.
“This will be the anchor that causes people to Google Dunbar,” he said. “When they Google the park, they will Google Dunbar, so we’ll be getting a lot of hits and a lot of questions.”
Cunningham said the amount of tournaments the facility could host has caught the interest of local businesses, including the Dunbar Plaza Hotel. He announced at the ceremony the hotel is negotiating with Choice Hotels International about upgrades to better accommodate guests.
“Hopefully, we’ll be springing off of that and see more growth in Dunbar as this thing continues to grow,” he said.
Salango said the project is already having an economic impact, referencing the contract between the commission and Hayslett Construction of Hurricane, which is worth more than $10.2 million.
“We’ve got a local construction crew here working who hired local workers to do this job,” he said. “In the Kanawha Valley, the people are going to feel the economic impact as soon as we open. Hotels will be full, restaurants will be full, people are going to stop here and buy their gas and go to convenience stores.”
According to Salango, plans are on track to host a ribbon cutting ceremony next summer.