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The Zoo City Sportsplex groundbreaking
(Paul Church/The Courier-Tribune)

Build it and they will come. That’s exactly what local officials are counting on with the Zoo City Sportsplex, an 81-acre site under construction on Zoo Parkway. It’s expected to be completed in Fall 2020.

For years, officials had touted the proposed facility as a potential economic engine, saying it could be promoted as a venue for soccer tournaments — and more — and would bring teams from across the state. The central location of the park and its proximity to the North Carolina Zoo would make it an appealing venue, they said, with visitors spending money on food, gas, lodging and other things while in the area.

The idea that began in the mid2000s had to be put on hold, however, when the Great Recession hit in 2008. Then in April 2016, when an improving economy made it feasible once again, a public/private partnership was formed to build a scaled-back version of the park.

The City of Asheboro will own the Sportsplex. The Randolph-Asheboro YMCA will manage the playing fields. The North Carolina Zoo will coordinate programs and promotion of the Sportsplex along with the zoo.

Donations began pouring in and have included a $300,000 pledge from the three local Rotary clubs and $100,000 from Asheboro Kiwanis; sizable gifts from The Timken Company, Insurance Associates of the Triad, Energizer and Post Consumer Brands; and numerous other companies and individuals.

The Sportsplex design has been tweaked and re-tweaked, the latest adding four pickleball courts to the plan. Other features include seven multipurpose fields (suitable for soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey), volleyball courts, a playground, running/walking tracks, picnic shelters, restrooms and a concession stand.

Approximately 660 parking spots are also planned.

During the official groundbreaking in October 2018, Mayor David Smith, along with YMCA Board Chair Scott Dunn, YMCA Executive Director Patrick O’Hara and Asheboro City Manager John Ogburn, spoke before a crowd of well-wishers.

“It’s a really special day for all of us,” Smith said. “Those of us at city hall have been dreaming about this for 10, 12, 15 years — some of us maybe even longer than that. And it has come to fruition.”