Hotel financing gets six-month extension

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PHOTO BY MEG HIBBERT
Salem Parks & Recreation Director John Shaner, with back to the camera, explains
to members of the Salem School Board and Salem City Council an estimated
$2 million in needed renovations at Moyer Sports Complex to keep the complex
competitive in attracting national tournaments.

Developers planning to bring a long-awaited hotel to the Salem Civic Center property have gotten a six-month extension to procure financing.

At the Oct. 8 meeting, Salem City Council members agreed to the extra time on the option Spartan Development LLC holds. Dan Friesland and Alan V. Criss are working to bring a hotel and restaurant to the 6.7 acres at the corner of Texas and Boulevard. They have been working on the deal with the city since Sept. 29, 2016, and the original option was for 30 months from that October.

The partners earlier told the city manager that it had taken longer than expected to secure financing, Boggess said, and that they have a “soft” loan agreement. Spartan Development plans to bring Staybridge Suites, an extended-stay hotel, and a restaurant which is still unnamed. “It’s been a long road,” said Councilman James Martin, adding that he thought the city should give the developers more time since they believe they are close.

“I think it’s a smart move by the city to help them meet their goal, which is in our interests, too.” If Spartan Development fails to break ground by April, the city has the right to repurchase the property for the original purchase price of $675,000, according to the deed of amendment. The land’s assessed tax value is $1.49 million. In other actions, Council: Agreed to purchase two buildings and land at the corner of East Main Street and Thompson Memorial Drive, for a combined price of $825,000. Tenants in the buildings have been informed and their leases will be honored, Assistant City Manager Jay Taliaferro told council. No decision has been made yet how the properties will be used, Taliaferro said. Set the date of the work session before the Oct. 22 council meeting to interview the three candidates for Salem City School Board. They are Dr. Nancy Bradley and Dr. Michael Chiglinsky, who each are asking to be reappointed for another three-year term, and Josh Kier, a Northcross English teacher who ran for Salem City Council in May. Met for a briefing and barbecue dinner before this week’s council meeting, to hear a representative of Davenport & Company summarize a capital needs analysis for $25 million in renovations and associated costs to Salem High School in 2020, and ways those and another $6 million in city improvements could be financed. No action was taken. Toured and had a 15-minute briefing from Salem Recreation and Parks Director John Shaner on renovations needed at the 26-year-old Moyer Sports Complex to keep it competitive in attracting national and regional tournaments.

“Moyer is used probably more than any other facility in Salem,” he said, and is “An economic driver for the city.” Shaner told the two boards that in 2017, 1,618 softball and baseball games were played, 120,000 people went through the gates, accounting for 14,000 in hotel room nights and over $12 million into the Salem economy. Next year the facility has already booked 22,000 rooms through the national tournaments. He said no tournaments have been booked in 2022, deliberately, in order to give time to fix the fields and do renovations. He said those estimated $2 million in renovations needed would include:

Regarding all the fields (they no longer perk because of layers of dirt added over the years, and high water from the neighboring Roanoke River stands in the grass, Shaner said).

Enlarging the concession stands which are: “too small to fix hot dogs and hamburgers,” he said.

Adding an umpire room;

Providing a shade system for fans;

Replacing all the chain link fencing between fields and fans and replacing with suspended net systems.

Shaner said an elevator system is needed to access the tower press box accessible now only by stairs, “in case a young man or young woman wants to be a sportscaster.” Now the only way to get someone with limited mobility into the tower “is to carry them,” Shaner said. Assistant City Manager Jay Taliaferro estimated the project would cost $2 million, with the fields being $1 million of that, and that the city could lose $2 million in income while the facility is closed. Shaner said the idea is to close the complex after the last tournament in 2022 and re-open it in March. All of Salem’s high school softball and baseball games are played there, as well as rec games. Shaner said other facilities, such as Oakey Field could be used. “We’ll make it work,” he said.