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Bowman Gray sale could be completed this year

Bowman Gray sale could be completed this year
June 29
04:00 2017

The City of Winston-Salem may finally close its sale of Bowman Gray Stadium to Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) by year’s end.

The City Council initially voted in May 2013 on its intent to sale the stadium for $7.1 million to WSSU, which uses it for football games. The stadium is also home of NASCAR’s first and longest running weekly race track.

The vote happened at the same time as the sale of the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Wake Forest University (WFU). That sale was closed relatively quickly because WFU is a private university. WSSU is a public university, so it needed state approval, which has taken four years so far.

Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe told City Council members in a meeting earlier this month that currently a brownfield agreement, denoting pollution on the site, is under state review. After that, their will be a monthlong public comment period and then a purchase agreement can move forward. It’ll go to the Council of State, which consists of the governor and other state elected officials, for approval. WSSU financing for the sale will need to be approved by the UNC Board of Governors. After all that happens, the City Council must vote to give the sale its final approval.

“With all that in play, we’re thinking it could be toward the end of the calendar year,” said Rowe about the sale.

Rowe said a state required environmental review of the property took two years. It found there was methane gas found under a parking lot there, which was built on the site of a former municipal landfill. The gas is not in the right concentrations to be flammable and isn’t a health threat to those at the stadium property but it could cause problems in surrounding homes. The city has spent $308,140 for a contract with Smith Gardner to remediate the gas.

Rowe said that the city has contracted with WSSU since 2014 to operate and maintain the stadium, which this year alone will cost the city $177,000.

WSSU Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management Rosalba Ledezma said the stadium will be a good addition to the landlocked university. She said the university doesn’t plan to change the operations of the stadium but will be adding some additional permanent groundkeepers after the sale to help with the property’s upkeep.

Ledezma said that the amount of time the sale has taken isn’t usual for this type of transaction, since it has to meet many state requirements.

“It has taken some time, but it doesn’t surprise us,” she said.

In 2013, some objected to the sale of the LJVM Coliseum because they feared WFU would drop Lawrence Joel, who was an African American war hero, off the name, which hasn’t happened. Bowman Gray was less controversial, though some were concerned about the selling of public property and how a new owner might affect racing there. The racing concerns caused the sale some initial difficulties in the General Assembly but, with support from racing officials and a commitment to racing from WSSU, the legislative body did approve the sale in 2013.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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