Efforts to construct a community center at Smith Mountain Lake are starting to take shape in Bedford County. Work is underway to bring the long-gestating center to Downtown Moneta.
The Bedford County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board plans to meet with county supervisors later this month to discuss funding for the center. Board member Fred Sylvester said $550,000 will be needed from the county to move the project forward.
“This would help us in so many different aspects,” Sylvester said of the economic opportunities for the county. “We really think it’s going to be an economic driver.”
Plans for the proposed community center have seen some renovations in recent years. Sylvester said the Bedford County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has decided to move in a slightly different direction than the nonprofit Smith Mountain Lake Center Inc. which has worked on developing a center for several years.
Sylvester said his board’s proposal will focus more on the entertainment aspect of a community center. The proposal for SML Center Inc. was for a larger space that included a mixture of entertainment and education opportunities for the public.
Soon after the advisory board starting work to develop the center, Sylvester said they approached George Aznavorian about donating property for the project. The board first considered putting the center beside the Moneta/Smith Mountain Lake Library before deciding to locate it at Downtown Moneta fronting Virginia 122.
The current proposal for the community center is for a 20,000 square-foot building that can seat 1,500 people. The building will be a mixture of indoor and outdoor with open walls and sections of grass on both sides outside of the covered area.
The center will have rooms for storage, offices and a kitchen as well as restrooms for visitors. The stage will also have a 28 foot wide video screen that would have the ability to provide live feeds of events and concerts elsewhere. Sylvester said the screen could also play major sports events.
While the center would be open to the elements most of the time, Sylvester said heavy PVC curtains would be added that could be rolled down during a storm.
In all, the total cost of the center is estimated at $2.4 million, according to Sylvester. With the land donated by Aznavorian and other donations provided, additional funding needed is just over $1 million.
A work session is planned with the Bedford County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 27 to discuss the county contributing $550,000 to the center. If it is approved, Sylvester said work will begin to obtain the remaining $800,000 through grants and a local capital campaign.
Sylvester said he is hopeful supervisors will agree to provide funding. The center is expected to provide millions in revenue for the county and the region from visitors to the center purchasing meals, gas or lodging. The center is estimated to bring in $300,000 in tax revenue to the county, he said.
If approved by the county, Sylvester said he was unsure how long it would take to raise additional funds from grants and a capital campaign. Once the funds are in place, he said construction on the center would take as little as 18 months.