CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The City of Charleston and Kanawha County Commission have announced a historic joint venture project that would convert the former Macy’s building at Charleston Town Center and the Lee Street parking garage into an indoor sports complex.
Officials from around the city, county and other local stakeholders gathered at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center Wednesday for the announcement of the $80 million investment into the two mall area structures to build the Capital Sports Center.
“We have never worked on a project together of this scale. This will be the largest project the city and county have done jointly in the history of the city and county,” Kanawha County Commission Ben Salango told MetroNews.
The proposal calls for demolishing three floors of Parking Garage B and building the complex above it. The proposed Capital Sports Center would feature an aquatic center, six basketball courts or 12 volleyball courts, an indoor turf field, two wrestling mats, eight pickleball courts, an elevated running/walking track, and more.
Salango noted the general public will have full access to it and would be able to buy a monthly membership. He also said the hope is to attract thousands of youth and travel sports teams into downtown to use the 247,000-square-foot facility, similar to the Shawnee Sports Complex in Dunbar for outdoor activities.
“You flood this place with 10,000 athletes and their families, they are going to the mall. They are eating in the food court, shopping in the mall and doing the things we need to do here which is foot traffic in downtown. I think that is going to change the landscape,” Salango said.
The proposed project is not on mall property but Salango noted how leaders at the mall support what the plan calls for.
“It’s no secret the mall area has had its struggles but better days are ahead. We are going to bring in the traffic and that is what the mall needs,” the commissioner said.
The western half of Macy’s, owned by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority (CURA), will be repurposed into a 50-meter competition-grad aquatic center with seating for 300. The renderings by ZMM Architects & Engineers show the center separate from the rest of Macy’s but connected by doors. A rock climbing wall and 30,000 square feet fitness area – for weightlifting, cardio, CrossFit yoga, exercise and personal training are also proposed in Macy’s.
The video rendering, which was shown to a crowd of people Wednesday, detailed construction that included the removal of the present overhang across Lee Street. A pedestrian bridge is proposed to connect the Washington Street garage to the new sports gymnasium lobby.
“In order to position our capital city to attract top-tier, revenue-generating events and the associated economic impact, we must have the necessary facilities to compete. Through the proposed Capital Sports Center, we will have the opportunity to attract major regional or national swimming, volleyball, basketball and pickleball events,” Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said in a release. “In addition to the economic impact of sports tourism, this facility will also provide our young athletes with a state-of-the-art facility in which to train—better preparing them to compete in collegiate athletics or other sports opportunities they may want to pursue.”
WATCH: The video rendering of propose center
Goodwin and Salango highlighted findings of a sports tourism study by The Huddle Up Group for the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau that showed the economic impact of sports tourism.
According to the most recent study by the Sports Tourism and Events Association – State of the Sports Industry Report 2021, the participant-driven part of the domestic sports tourism sector was responsible for more than $39 billion in direct spending at the end of 2021, as compared to $15 billion in 2019.
As for the funding, Salango said it will come from numerous outlets including a private donation campaign that will soon begin. Salango said officials will also look at federal partners for grants. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) spoke at the announcement. Officials said they will also look to corporate sponsors and state money before looking at what the city and county need to split.
Salango said they will create a governance board for the project where the city and county each appoint members. The board will then make decisions for the complex.