Letter to the Editor: What about adult recreation?

Published 8:14 am Friday, November 13, 2020

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To the Editor:

RECREATION – What are we doing about the growing community of adults that are coming to the Outer Banks to retire. How about the adult workers when they get home from work. Where can they go and get healthy?

Compare our resort towns to other towns like Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and you can head on down the east coast and find more of these kinds of stories. But to start, it is about the northern end of Dare County. “What are we doing for retiring adults and adults that work in Dare County?”

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Dare County Recreation Department does a great job for the youth in our communities. But the dollar spent for youth versus adults/seniors for an example – adult basketball $4000, youth basketball $36,000. Youth soccer and football programs $25K to adults $2500.

Ask yourself, where can I go and get involved in a recreational sport when I get off from work? Answer is fish, boating and surfing, but these are not administrated by Dare County Recreation programs that I speak of.

In fact, we do not even have an adult community center. Exception would be the Baum Center KDH for billiards and ping pong and some outdated gym equipment. We do have a Dare County Youth Recreation Center which houses and supports a lot of these programs listed above and our senior pickleball play in the mornings.

I have talked with many community leaders in a short period of time since I have recently retired (April 2020) and what I am finding is the saying “Say in your lane” answer or, in other words, since I live in Colington Harbour, I am not allowed to or it is advised that I need to find some residents of a township such as Kill Devil Hills to bring an idea of change to a board meeting for public comment. Again, this was suggested and not tested as per this typing. The other side of this is to speak with commissioners at Dare County on the subject of recreation and the promotion of pickleball and adults having a dedicated facility for all taxpaying residents or property owners. I hope for the sake of writing this that we are not that divided that the towns cannot work together to come up with an idea to support a place for everyone to be in a place to be in Dare County somewhere between mile marker 1 and 16 and not worry whose budget this will affect. We have the money, it’s just the ideas are not being heard to be made into realistic promises for Dare County taxpayers to grow.

Just a note, we are so crowded in the one gym that is shared with seniors to play pickleball at the Dare County Youth Center that if you are here visiting or vacationing and try to come to play pickleball, you will be turned away because this is for resident and property owners only. Share that statement to Lee Nettles of the Dare County Tourism Board.

But Dare County Tourism Board is made up of town councilman from each town along with the Restaurant Association, Realtors Association and the Hotel Association. Here is why below.

The authorization and distribution for the 6% occupancy tax rate are as follows:

3% (three percent) Room Occupancy Tax

2% (two percent) Room Occupancy and Tourism Development Tax for Beach Nourishment

1% (one percent) Room Occupancy and Tourism Development Tax

Gross Occupancy Tax Distributions (Historical Data)

First eligible expense is the cost of an annual audit.

75% must be used for the cost of administration and to promote tourism, including the following:

  • advertising to promote less than peak season events and programs
  • marketing research
  • a mail and telephone inquiry response program
  • welcoming and hospitality functions

25% must be used for services or programs needed due to the impact of tourism on the county.

In FY 2016, Dare County earmarked their share of this 3% occupancy tax as follows:

  • 25% for garbage, refuse, and solid waste collection and disposal
  • 25% for police protection (Sheriff’s Office)
  • 50% for emergency services (Communications, Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Medical Helicopter, and Emergency Management).

Dare County has a permanent population of approximately 33,920. However, the county’s tourism industry results in a large seasonal population with an average daily population from June through August estimated to be approximately 225,000 to 300,000.

Six municipalities are located within the county: Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Manteo, Nags Head and Southern Shores. The county has a commissioner/manager form of government. The seven members of the Board of Commissioners serve staggered four-year terms.

A shared resource of income for all towns –

2% (two percent) Room Occupancy and Tourism Development Tax for Beach Nourishment:

FY 2019 – So out of $29 million collected, $9 million went to beach nourishment and the Tourism Board share was $4 million and $15 million is divided as listed above to the towns. This does not reflect your property taxes. This is purely occupancy tax gross distributions.

So my question to everyone above and hopefully the town mayors or town or county commissioners will read this: What are you doing for property owners that pay property and personal taxes for our schools, roadways, hospitals, town and county services etc.? Is it too much to ask for a place like a YMCA where I don’t have to reach into my pocket and pay over $130 a month and to have a dedicated source at a town somewhere between mile marker 1 and 16 to play a sport like basketball, tennis, pickleball, racketball and workout gym equipment indoors when the weather does not permit these activities outside?

Idea shared with Kill Devil Hills council member (this was shared in October 2020): Let’s cover the roller rink and have multi-purpose lines down for basketball, pickleball, tennis and still have the roller rink surface. Then when events need cover, we have a roof over our heads. But I was told, I am not a resident of Kill Devil Hills and I need to get residents on board with this idea.

Estimate cost for this structure: $250,000.00.

One item that I advocate for is pickleball. You might ask, as well as many town commissioners ask, “What is pickleball?” Well it is the fastest growing sport in the country. Check out this link: https://usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/  

Pickleplex – a larger example of a complex that if you build it, they will come. But Florida is the hot spot for this sport in the winter months with all the snowbirds that head south.

Another idea is to build a complex with pickleball with at least 12 courts and host tournaments in the spring and fall. We have the hotels and restaurants to support this type of event. 2020 USA Pickleball Mid Atlantic Regional Championship (originally was going to be hosted in Virginia Beach, canceled due to COVID) and played in Myrtle Beach, SC had registered 428 players (look at this link and check out the players list and where they all traveled in from what state: https://www.pickleballtournaments.com/tournamentinfo.pl?tid=4061).

The courts built at Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club over a year ago cost approximately $100,000.00 for 10 courts. The membership alone for 100 + members just for the use of pickleball court is over $400 a year, which raised almost 2/3 of the cost the first year. Plus, if they hosted the tournament listed above, the revenue generated for one weekend tournament is $27,820 based on the registration fee of $65, which is common at most events.

Come on, Dare County and its town leaders – Let’s get on board with thinking outside the box and bring some new ideas that serve all residents and tourists. We have the land and we have the people in place to make this happen.  Who will be the champion to take this idea to the finish line?

Scott Garber