(pictured above: Thousands pack Bowman Gray for WSSU’s recent commencement ceremony.)
Winston-Salem State University is a step closer to buying city-owned Bowman Gray Stadium.
City Manager Lee Garrity said this week that the city has received a $7.3 million offer from the state to buy the stadium, which has long been the home-base of WSSU football.
The offer is contingent upon Winston-Salem State successfully completing a Brownfield agreement to test the land on which the property sits for contamination.
“From my understanding, we will be bringing forth to City Council next month the offer and the terms of acceptance for that offer,” Garrity said.
City Council members approved a resolution in May 2013 recommending that the city sell the stadium to Winston-Salem State; however, the city and the university (which is state-run) have been waiting for the N.C. Department of Administration State Property Office to make an offer for the university.
“The process had gotten kind of stagnant, and, of course, that made us all a little nervous,” said Nancy Young, director of public relations at Winston-Salem State. “We have been assuming management of the property this year in anticipation of a smooth transition when the sale went through.”
The Brownfield agreement is expected to take up to 12 months to complete and will hopefully prove that there are no lingering pollutants at or near the stadium.
“In the case of Bowman Gray Stadium, there was a demolition landfill there with railroad ties, and construction debris was deposited there,” Garrity said. “This agreement reduces liability for environmental issues. It is a safeguard and it reduces your cost as far as developing and cleanup.”
The city’s original asking price was $7.1 million. The property has been appraised at roughly $9 million. Officials said the asking price would allow the city to recover its debt from the construction of the WSSU football field house and from improvements the city had made to the facility.
“I was glad to get an offer that would help pay off the city’s debt, removing the debt from the taxpayers,” Garrity said. “We are already in conversations with the university about doing anything that we can to help expedite the process.”
The university has already started taking over some of the city’s responsibilities at the stadium and incorporating it into its activities. It was the location of its recent commencement ceremony. Young said that students, staff and alumnus are excited about the impending sale.
“We have been playing our football games there forever and having this additional property also opens up the opportunity for intramural sports on campus, like baseball or softball, and new recreational areas.”
Young said the stadium will also be a money generator.
“The contract that we had with the city for football games meant that we split parking fees and the concession revenue,” she said. “Now, we will not have to pay them and the revenue that comes in is all ours.”
Provisions have been added to the bill of sale to ensure that NASCAR racing remains at the stadium.
“We have been working with the racing folks on Saturday night,” Young said. “They have a long term contract and we are depending on that revenue to help us pay for the stadium.”