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Sun March 31, 2013
Deadline Nearing for Sale of Winston-Salem Coliseum & Stadium
The city of Winston-Salem wants to divest some of its assets. City leaders are planning public hearings to discuss the potential sale of the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Bowman Gray Stadium .
The city of Winston-Salem is in active discussions with Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University about the potential sale of the Joel Coliseum and Bowman Gray Stadium. Wake Forest plays its basketball games at the Coliseum, while WSSU plays football at Bowman Gray.
City manager Lee Garrity says the sale would save taxpayers about $30 million over the next 20 years.
But Garrity says divesting the properties may mean the loss of 30 jobs.
“We have about 40 either part or full-time employees that work those two facilities and there would be very few of them that we need to maintain the fairgrounds. We will work hard to see what vacancies are available in city government but there is the potential of 20 to 30 employees losing their jobs,” says Garrity.
The city has not yet received a formal offer from either university. Garrity says the asking price is the debt that the city owes for the properties.
“We owe $8-million of current debt for improvements to the coliseum and we owe total debt of about $7 million for Bowman Gray Stadium,” says Garrity.
Garrity says the city would retain the fairgrounds and the annex behind Joel coliseum. WSSU would acquire the land surrounding Bowman Gray stadium.
As part of the sale, deed restrictions will require both universities to operate the venues as public sporting or community arenas.
Owen Cooks, the Associate Vice Chancellor of facilities for Winston-Salem State University says, “We also are looking forward to continuing Bowman Gray Racing’s long-term use of the track. The city has made it clear that the existing lease with Bowman Gray Racing would be a condition of the sale, so will inherit that lease and honor it to keep that program going.”
Cooks says Winston-Salem State University will have to get approval from the state before it can make any deal with the city. A bill is already before the general assembly to do just that.
Garrity says the city expects to get a formal proposal from Wake Forest within the next few weeks. Wake Forest University declined to comment on the sale, but Garrity says the university’s Board of Trustees has given tentative approval for the athletic director to move forward with negotiations.
Garrity says he wants formal bids for both properties by the end of April, so city council can take up the issue before the end of the fiscal year. Meanwhile, the public has a chance to weigh in on the potential sale during a public hearing this summer.