The crowd that gathered atop the new Azalea Road Bridge on April 18 to celebrate the completion of phase one of the Lake Craig/Azalea Road improvement project was made up of adults and kids alike. Many wore soccer jerseys and, following the kick off event, would continue on to the John B. Lewis Soccer complex to play in games there or at least cheer them on.
After all, pointed out Heather Pott, who has two sons on soccer teams, a major component of the project is new, safer access to the complex via one-way entrances and exits, and a new traffic signal at the busy intersection of Azalea and Gashes Creek roads.
“To have a safe road to enter in and leave on is a fabulous thing,” Pott said. “And the light has made a huge difference. I’m just really grateful.”
Five years in the making, the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project includes significant transportation improvements combining pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle components that enhance access to the soccer complex, recreation park and the WNC Nature Center. Stream improvements along the Swannanoa River reduce the impact of high water events at Azalea Road and NC 81, and a new water line provides soccer players with drinkable water for the first time since the John B. Lewis complex opened in 2005.
The $3.9 million project was made possible with funding partnerships by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Division of Water Resources. The general contractor for the project was Young & McQueen Grading Company, of Burnsville, N.C. The design team for the project has been led by McGill Associates, located in Asheville.
At the dedication celebration, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer pointed to the collaboration of several City of Asheville departments – Public Works, Stormwater Services, Parks and Recreation and the Water Resources Department – for their hard work in completing the project. But she also had words of thanks for the community’s involvement in making the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project a success.
“We really want to thank the citizens of Asheville for pushing this and getting it to the finish line.” Manheimer said. She also pointed to the partnerships it took to make the project a reality. “Any project we take on as a city requires partners, and this is a great example of that.”
One of those partners is the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association, which played a huge part in planning the kickoff event. “It really is a day to celebrate this park,” said ABYSA Executive Director Mike Rottjakob. “I want to thanks the city for such perseverance and thank them for producing such an awesome project.”
Infrastructure improvements like these are engines of economic development, bringing more visitors to the region and making the park complex even more attractive. That point was not lost on Heather Pott, who noted that city’s ability to attract large soccer tournaments would bring more economic impact to the city as out of town visitors spend money hotel rooms, restaurants and attractions.
“Asheville is really poised to have a great place for soccer,” Pott said. “If we continue with these kinds of improvements, Asheville can really shine.”
For more on the Lake Craig/Azalea Road improvement project, go to ashevillenc.gov/projects.