City of Asheville’s Major Works Pathway Request Receives Largest Investment in the History of the Tourism Authority’s Tourism Product Development Fund
At the July board meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) approved nearly $23 million in multi-year funding for the City of Asheville’s McCormick Field Centennial Restoration & Capital Improvements Project. This investment marks the first debt service project and the largest Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) investment ever granted, nearly tripling the $8.14 million invested in the Town of Woodfin’s Greenway & Blueway in 2022.
With today’s decision, the BCTDA has committed $80 million to 46 community tourism projects since the fund’s inception, with more than half invested in City-owned or operated amenities. TPDF is solely funded through a lodging tax paid by visitors who stay overnight in Buncombe County in commercial lodging facilities including hotels, vacation rentals, and bed-and-breakfasts. This seminal investment falls on the 20th anniversary of the TPDF and the 40th anniversary of the creation of Buncombe County’s tourism development authority.
“Throughout this process, our staff, committee, and board have emphasized the importance of a year-round facility to serve the needs of the community beyond the baseball season,” President & CEO of Explore Asheville and the BCTDA Vic Isley said. “The board’s decision today demonstrates our commitment to preserving and improving community assets, and sustaining affordable, family-friendly activities for locals and those who visit. We are proud to support the continued legacy of baseball in Asheville and Buncombe County through this monumental investment partnership with the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, and the Asheville Tourists Ballclub.”
The project’s total cost with interest over the life of debt service is $55.6 million. The City of Asheville requested $22.95 million from the Tourism Development Authority, 41 percent of the total project cost, through the TPDF Major Works Pathway. This request reallocates the Coxe Avenue Green Street grant awarded in the 2022 TPDF cycle and incorporates debt service of $1.4 million annually for 15 years.
“I would like to thank the BCTDA, Buncombe County, and the Asheville Tourists for their commitment to keeping baseball in Asheville,” Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said. “This partnership will provide opportunities for our community to come together, enjoying baseball and events held at the stadium for years to come.”
The project includes necessary capital improvements for McCormick Field to meet new Minor League Baseball facility standards passed in 2019. The investment will also modernize the stadium into a multi-use public facility with the necessary infrastructure to operate year-round events. Construction is expected to begin Sept. 2024 and be completed by March 2026.
“As with so many other significant public projects within Buncombe County, the McCormick Field Centennial Renovation could not happen without the critical investment and forward-thinking leadership of Vic Isley and the BCTDA,” Director of Community & Regional Entertainment Facilities at the City of Asheville Chris Corl said. “Community input and initiative drove the process to get to today. Architectural design will begin immediately, and I look forward to the future of baseball and the new array of diverse programming available to the visitors and locals at McCormick Field.“
McCormick Field currently attracts 179,500 attendees annually, with an estimated average of 28 percent of attendees coming from the five-county area surrounding Buncombe County. The City expects total annual visitation to double to 376,200 by 2029 due to enhanced marketing efforts, increased venue activation outside baseball games, and trend comparisons following similar renovation projects.
TPDF investment for McCormick Field is contingent upon the City meeting additional terms recommended by the TPDF Committee. This includes but is not limited to a permanent exhibit showcasing the storied history of baseball in Asheville and the three Negro League teams’ presence at the field. The TPDF Committee also requests that the baseball club host a Travel and Hospitality night, allowing local hospitality workers to attend a free or reduced-priced game each season.