Home Local News Rockingham revisits rec complex plan

Rockingham revisits rec complex plan

City of Rockingham

ROCKINGHAM — City leaders are considering bringing back to the table a proposal for a recreation complex.

The discussion came during final comments of Tuesday’s Rockingham City Council meeting when Councilwoman Denise Sullivan questioned City Manager Monty Crump about a section of the Parks and Recreation report regarding the “dismantling and restructuring” of the tennis courts at Browder Park to repurpose the area for a multipurpose field.

Crump said there hasn’t been any demand for tennis in years — “but we do have a demand for additional fields,” particularly for soccer.

Councilman Steve Morris said the courts were underused 25 years ago.

“We can spend the money to put the tennis courts back,” Crump said.

Sullivan said it doesn’t seem like there’s much at Browder Park for anyone past the age of 12 or 13 and feels like it should be for the entire community.

Crump said he didn’t disagree, and brought up the “overwhelming” defeat at the ballot box of a referendum for a one-quarter percent (0.25%) local sales and use tax increase to help fund the planned complex that would have taken the Parks and Recreation Department “to the next level.”

The city already owns the 118-acre tract land on the corner of Richmond and Old Aberdeen roads.

The master plan includes:

  • 11 youth and adult baseball and softball fields and a training facility
  • Two soccer fields and two multipurpose (soccer and football) fields with space for an additional field
  • An 18-hole disc golf course
  • A half-mile walking trail
  • A two-court tennis facility
  • Three restroom buildings

One section of the complex would also feature a carousel, mini-train, splash pad and a dog park.

Both Crump and Willard said, if built, the complex could be used by the entire county.

“We were willing to use that, because it does belong to the city of Rockingham, but we just need help funding it through the county,” Willard said. “Until we get that, we can’t carry the whole burden.”

Those who opposed the measure cited the lack of a sunset clause and disapproved of a countywide sales tax increase going toward city project.

Proponents of the increase said that the slight tax burden would be shared by tourists, stopping to buy gas or eat at local restaurants.

But, as Crump pointed out, it was “overwhelmingly, resoundingly defeated.”

According to records with the Richmond County Board of Elections, 8,841 county residents voted against the increase, 3,677 voted for it, and 809 didn’t vote.

Another issue at Browder Park, Crump said, is the lack of parking.

“I know that last Saturday they were three-to-four deep parking in Dieffenbach’s parking lot to use our facilities,” Crump said. “We are overcrowded. We’ve been overcrowded for decades. That was the whole point of trying to get the new recreation (complex).

“It failed miserably because people in this county did not want to invest in it,” Crump continued. “Then we were left providing recreation for the entire county and couldn’t afford it, and had to do a pullback to that.”

Councilman Gene Willard suggested bringing the complex back into the discussions between the municipalities and the county.

Crump said it was up to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners to bring it back to the ballot.

“They need to be prodded, though,” Willard replied.

Sullivan asked Crump about the possibility of sending out a public interest survey, which the city manager said could be done.


Morris said Richmond County shouldn’t be compared to Moore County, as Sullivan had earlier in the discussion on tennis courts.

“The socio-economic differences are monumental,” Morris said. “They’ve got people that have moved there, retired there from all over the United States and the world. We don’t have an influx of people moving here … it’s a different ballgame.”

Crump said the effort is a lot larger than just the city.

“Sure, everybody would want Rockingham to go out and do this, like we did for years, as long as the taxpayers of Rockingham pay for it — but we’re paying for everybody in the county and not getting a return from them,” Crump said. “That’s what has got to be addressed.”

Mayor John Hutchinson said he liked the idea of asking the public “what they want in recreation.”

“I don’t know what the solutions are, but I do think it’s something worth discussing,” Hutchinson said. 

Agreeing with Willard, Hutchinson said city leaders should let the commissioners know “we’re interested in more recreation, more things for youth, more things for adults.”



Previous articleLive at 5 (Friday, 4/15/22)
Next articleBig first inning, Eason’s complete game move Raiders past Tigers
Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.