Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Here’s a look at this year’s crop of applications for grants from the Tourism Product Development Fund of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.

Each year, Buncombe tourism officials award grants aimed at boosting the county’s tourism industry. The TPDF is funded by part of Buncombe County’s hotel occupancy tax. Projects that get funded must show they “can generate substantial new and incremental room nights, and, therefore, increase the economic impact on the community,” according to the TDA.

Here’s the list:

2018 applications for funding from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s Tourism Product Development Fund

Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission
-A $750,000 request for a new video board/scoreboard at the US Cellular Center

-The US Cellular Center needs a video board/scoreboard that can show commercials and other information, such as pre-game line-ups, replays and more, according to the application. The center’s existing scoreboard, installed in 2011, doesn’t have video capabilities and the scoreboard can only score basketball, according to the application

-Earlier this year, the US Cellular Center hosted the women’s Fed Cup tennis tournament for the first time ever, and the need for an up-to-date scoreboard that can show video became starkly apparent. That was a big-time event, with big-time sponsors who want their commercials broadcast via snazzy video screens. The sports commission says it is continuing to pursue events such as Fed Cup, Davis Cup, NCAA Women’s Basketball Regionals and more.

-For the year end 2017, some 251,495 guests attended US Cellular Center events.


Asheville Museum of Science
-A $75,000 request to enhance and beautify the public entrance to its facility at 43 Patton Avenue location.

-The museum wants to increase its visibility and enhance the museum lobby. Work would include new signage, an outdoor interactive exhibit and more, according to the application.


Buncombe County Recreation Services
-A $6 million request to build out the Enka Heritage Trail and for Buncombe County Sports Park improvements

-From the application: The Enka Heritage Trail is a spoke of the Buncombe County greenway system. The 2-mile corridor will connect between Sand Hill Road at its intersection with Enka Lake Road, proceeding along Hominy Creek to its intersection with Sand Hill Road south of Warren Haynes Drive. This segment of the greenmail will create a sporting and athletics destination by providing a direct connection with the newly opened Bob Lewis Ballpark, the Buncombe County Sports Park and the commercial retail development at Enka Center.

-Some money would go toward the installation of artificial turf and field lighting at three soccer fields. Bob Lewis Ballpark would also get field lighting. A new field for community use would be built, and would feature an athletics agility course, fitness challenge course and interactive four-way multipurpose court.

-Buncombe County Sports Park would receive trail upgrades; a new pavilion would be added and have bathrooms and a WIFI connection, as well as space for classes and demonstrations.

-The Enka Heritage Trail would get riparian protection along Hominy Creek and will preserve a stand of native river cane.


Center for Craft Creativity and Design
-A $975,000 request to build out a National Craft Innovation Hub at its location on 67 Broadway Street in downtown Asheville.

-The project would amplify Asheville’s reputation as a national destination for craft artists and their customers, from the artists themselves to students, researchers, hobbyists and consumers of craft goods, according to the application.

-The craft innovation hub would function as a campus by convening national, regional and local education and entrepreneurship workshops; create new opportunities for new festivals and signature events; revitalize a history building and adjacent alley and enhance downtown place-making, according to the application.

-Current plans for the center include a public art piece to be installed in front of the building; a new mural on the exterior stairwell facade; an expanded first floor gallery space; a new auxiliary gallery space for UNCA and WWC university partners; classroom space, meeting rooms and other upgrades. The total project budget is $3.9 million.


Eagle Market Streets Development Corp.

-A $930,577 request to bolster the Historically African American Business District in the Eagle and Market street area in downtown Asheville. Locally known at “The Block,” the area was once home to a group of thriving black-owned businesses. The area is currently the center of major redevelopment, with a new mixed-used development called Eagle Market Place.

This project seeks to return the economic and social vibrancy of the district. It will focus on making the district a destination hub for housing, employment and creativity.


LEAF Community Arts

-A $635,500 request from the nonprofit LEAF Community Arts for the development of the LEAF Global Arts Center on Eagle Street in the new Eagle Market Place development.

-The center will give a year-round bricks-and-mortar connection to LEAF’s immersive brand experience and mission that a loyal audience, built over 23 years, can only access 10 days a year, according to the application.

-More about the center from the application: The center will be open to the public during the day and night on weekdays and weekends, and will offer free tickets and special events. The visitor experience will be comparable to visiting a science museum or historical site. The 2,900 square-foot center would serve as LEAF’s operational headquarters and would host music and art engagement stations separated into four distinct zones connected by an artfully designed interactive staircase. An “art bar” would serve snacks and drinks and sell LEAF merchandise. Look for live artist demonstrations and a cultural preservation station. An upper mezzanine will offer a storytelling and global game lounge. There would be a mini-theater in the basement, a mini-recording studio and more.


The North Carolina Arboretum Society
-A $905,000 request to add parking and improve night-time lighting for gardens and other facilities at the North Carolina Arboretum.

-The money would help the arboretum expand its evening program year-round, according to the application. The arboretum currently has 256 parking spaces. By reconfiguring the lot and adding a second lot to host buses and other vehicles, arboretum officials say they can gain 136 new spaces. Installing new low-voltage LED lights will help create an atmosphere that folks can enjoy and make it safer.


Sidewalk Coconut Collective
-A $140,875 request that will help it build out an immersive art museum modeled after a popular Sante Fe museum created by the Meow Wolf artist collective.

-In Asheville, the Sidewalk Coconut Collective will support artists and provide the art for Zed, the museum the group plans to build at The Foundation. The money would be used to build out a 2,000-square-foot space adjacent to the museum that would be home to the collective. The museum would create an immersive art experience that will draw tourists, according to the application.


Town of Black Mountain
-A $1 million request for phase two of the Riverwalk Greenway.

-The money will go toward expanding the existing greenway and pedestrian network. Money will be used for new restrooms, signs, bike rentals, a water station and more.


Wild Food Foundation

-A $300,000 request for a tourism and event center at Dr. Frank King’s Carolina Bison Farm in Leicester.

-The 500-acre farm is home to bison, elk, yak, camels and African Watusi. It already offers tours, but this grant would be used to turn an existing barn into an event center, build an amphitheater and create a farm tour tram, according to the application.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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