By Brandi Underwood
A group of Mount Hope community members gathered at the DuBois on Main in Mount Hope Thursday evening to discuss a proposal to rehabilitate Mount Hope Municipal Stadium.
The plan was presented by Stewart Payne, a 1982 graduate of Mount Hope High School, who is seeking to coordinate the renovation of the stadium with the ultimate goal of improving the Mount Hope economy.
Since the closure of the high school, the city-owned, castle-like stadium structure has been sitting idle, waiting to be either repurposed or resume its football-housing function.
Payne’s stadium rehab presentation included a review of Mount Hope’s current economic conditions, an overview of the project proposal, information on the sports tourism industry, funding and fundraising ideas and a questions portion.
Now a resident of California, Payne maintains interests in his home town of Mount Hope, quipping that he “never left Mount Hope even though he moved away.”
His background in sports management and public administration led him to develop a plan for Mount Hope which could eventually turn southern West Virginia into a national sports tourism destination.
Sports tourism attributed $8.3 billion to the economy in 2012, Payne said, and he would like Mount Hope to one day see a slice of that figure.
By rehabilitating Mount Hope Municipal Stadium to be a sports destination for collegiate, high school and youth programs, jobs will be created and business will be fostered in the area, Payne explained.
“So far everyone has been really receptive and seem ready to work toward this,” Payne said.
He noted that while the project has large-scale plans in the long run, the project is currently in the community education phase.
“Now that we have some community leaders involved, we’re trying to encourage more people to participate in the process,” he said.
In addition to educating community members, Payne is working to raise $22,000, the critical cost to fund an assessment of the proposed project.
“We have to get this stadium assessment funded, because without that we won’t know what’s possible and what the associated costs will be,” Payne explained.
After collecting the $22,000, Payne said that they will begin taking the next steps to secure state and federal grant funding for the project.
Payne plans to have an informational booth at the 2013 Mount Hope Jubilee on Sept. 21 and will be talking to Mount Hope community members about his vision.
In the meantime, those wishing to make donations to fund the project assessment can do so three different ways. Donations can be made online through crowd funding website www.gofundme.com/mustangs; checks or money orders can be mailed to Mount Hope Municipal Stadium Fund, P.O. Box 47, Mount Hope, WV 25880; or deposits can be made in person at the Bank of Mount Hope into the Rehab Mount Hope Municipal Stadium Fund account, #427403.
— E-mail: bunderwood @register-herald.com