The city of Asheville, North Carolina, was the big winner in Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority grant funding announced Oct. 26, with nearly $6.5 million allocated toward four projects.
The grants include $1.6 million for the revitalization of the Donald Ross-designed Asheville Municipal Golf Course.
The allocations come through the TDA’s Tourism Product Development Fund. The TDA board approved over $9 million in new investments in 10 community projects, and that comes in addition to $6.64 million the board approved at its August meeting.
For the 2022 cycle, the total investments come to $15.68 million, the most in 20 years the Tourism Product Development Fund has existed.
By law, the TDA must allocate two-thirds of its revenues, which primarily come from the local occupancy tax on hotels, vacation rentals and bed and breakfast inns, to advertising and marketing. The remaining one-third goes to the TPDF, which funds projects that are likely to extend tourists’ stays but also benefit the local community.
While the TDA and the grant fund now operate under the two-thirds/one-third model, the funding for this year’s grant cycle collected under previous legislation that mandated the TPDF get 25 percent of the occupancy tax, while 75 percent went to marketing and advertising.
The TDA’s budget is listed as $46 million in Buncombe County’s budget line items. In March, the authority adopted a $40.8 million “revenue objective” for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 2023.
Since the TPDF fund was created, the TDA has allocated almost $60 million to 46 community tourism projects, according to the release.
The TDA notes that, “Grant applicants are required to provide matching funds when applying for projects.” This grant cycle had two phases involving written applications, presentations, and project site visits.
Here’s the list of projects funded in the 2022 cycle:
Swannanoa River Greenway: $2.3M. City of Asheville project.
Coxe Avenue/Green Street project: $1.95M. City of Asheville project.
Asheville Municipal Golf Course revitalization, phase I: $1.64M. City of Asheville project.
WNC Nature Center, Gateway to the Southern Appalachians Enhancement: $567,000. City of Asheville project.
UNC Asheville Karl Straus Track, renovation and expansion: $1.5M. UNC Asheville Foundation project.
Karen Cragnolin Park, greenway phase: $360,790. RiverLink Inc. project.
Glass Center in Black Mountain: $330,000. North Carolina Glass Center project.
AVL Unpaved Phase I: $188,355. Asheville on Bikes project.
Museum beautification project: $125,000. Asheville Museum of Science project.
The Wortham Center phase II: $80,000. Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.
Woodfin Greenway & Blueway: $5.89M. Buncombe County government/Woodfin project.
Enka Recreation Destination: $750,000. Buncombe County government project.
“We are grateful for the thoughtful community projects brought forward by municipal and nonprofit partners that reflect collective local goals and values,” Vic Isley, president & CEO for Explore Asheville and the BCTDA, said in the press release.
The Asheville Municipal Golf Course sorely needs the money, as the historic course has fallen into disrepair in recent years and spawned a lawsuit filed by the city against the former management company for $340,000 in unpaid fees.
Asheville Municipal Golf Course in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo: Angela Wilhelm/Asheville Citizen Times)
The city filed the lawsuit Oct. 4 in Buncombe County Superior Court, over three months after the city attorney’s office sent a letter to Keith Pope, CEO of Pope Golf, based in Sarasota, Florida, advising that the city intended to initiate litigation over the past due lease payments, some of which have been accumulating since 2016.
Located in East Asheville, the “Muni”, as it’s often called, opened in 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also home to the longest-running African American golf tournament in the nation.
Chris Corl, the city’s director of Community and Regional Entertainment Facilities, said late in the afternoon of Oct. 26 he’d already received over 20 texts and emails from happy golfers.
“We’re really excited to be awarded the grant,” Corl said via email. “It’s now the second major funding commitment after the initial $1 million commitment from the city. We’re finalizing the first phase budget plan with Commonwealth Golf Partners Asheville right now and hope to have it set within a month…”
Chris Corl, the city’s director of Community and Regional Entertainment Facilities, walks above a sinkhole that formed on the Asheville Municipal Golf Course on October 2022. (Photo: Angela Wilhelm/Asheville Citizen Times)
The $2.3 million for Swannanoa Greenway will construct the first three miles of the project, and it leverages the city’s 2016 bond issue to boost local parks and recreation. The WNC Nature Center will renovate its facilities and expand operations, according to the press release.
The $1.95 million for Coxe Avenue Green Street fits with the “South Slope Vision Plan,” formulated by the community.
“The transformation of Coxe Avenue includes streetscape improvements that enhance walkability such as wider sidewalks and pedestrian scale lighting, in addition to placemaking interventions such as gateway features and street furniture,” the press release states.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said in the release the funding supports facility and experiences that city residents value.
“These and future infrastructure and quality of life improvements are made possible through partnerships and collaboration, in this case between the city, county, and the TDA,” Manheimer said in the release. “I look forward to more such partnerships in our community.”
The TDA offered these details on other allocations:
The UNC Asheville Foundation will reconstruct an expanded Karl Straus Track, install new field equipment, and improve field conditions.
RiverLink, Inc. will develop the greenway phase of the new Karen Cragnolin Park connecting adjoining parks and serving as a link in the Wilma Dykeman Riverway.
The North Carolina Glass Center will develop a new state-of-the art public glass studio and school in downtown Black Mountain.
Asheville on Bikes will use its grant for the first phase of a 4.9-mile network of multi-use trails in urban Asheville, known as AVL Unpaved.
Asheville Museum of Science will start a museum beautification project that expands exhibition space.
The Wortham Center will grow the capacity of its facility to enable the simultaneous use of all three venues by local and touring production companies.
Janet Cone, UNCA’s director of athletics, said the $1.5 million award “helps us tremendously in modernizing and improving the track not just for our student-athletes, but everyone in the greater Asheville and Buncombe County area.”