Stanley White Rec Center $13M rebuild gets boost with new grant application

The City of New Bern will apply for a Rural Transformation Grant to help offset the expected $13 million cost to rebuild the Stanley White Recreation Center.

The City of New Bern’s ongoing efforts to build a new Stanley White Recreation Center got a considerable boost this week thanks to some unexpected good news. That information, however, came at the expense of another much-anticipated city project.

During the New Bern Board of Aldermen’s April 25 meeting, the board voted to direct city staff to apply for a Rural Transformation Grant through the NC Department of Commerce to help fund the project. The board had previously voted to use the anticipated grant for a new Pepsi Museum but shifted gears when it became clear a location for the museum wouldn’t be chosen in time to meet the application’s May 3 deadline.

The city will apply for the full grant amount of $950,000 but will likely only receive half of that if the grant is approved due to the fund’s depleted account, according to Mayor Jeffrey Odham.

City Manager Foster Hughes Hughes said the Stanley White Rec project would qualify for the grant since it is a “shovel ready” project. Approved grants will be announced on June 13.

Hughes also announced that bids for the Stanley White Rec project opened on April 25. The city received five bids, he told the board, with the lowest ranging between $12.9 million and $13.3 million.

Hughes said city staff and CPL, the architecture firm working on the project, would vet the bid information and then present it to the board for consideration during their next meeting.

According to Hughes, CPL had estimated the bids would come in around $14 million.

“We’re excited where those numbers turned out,” he commented.

Hughes said the city has a FEMA grant for approximately $7 million and $500,000 in insurance proceeds as well as funds from the state to go towards the Stanley White Rec construction. 

In 2020, the city established a $8.6 million Stanley White Recreation project fund. Hughes said some of that money has been expended on demolition of the original building on Chapman Street and an environmental assessment of the new location between Gaston Boulevard and Third Avenue. 

Hughes said the city would seek an approximately $5 million loan to cover the balance of the costs.  

“We’re going to have to come up with the difference between the $8 million and the $13 million, so that (grant money) would just help us pay a little bit less,” Hughes said. “It would go towards reducing our debt.”

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.