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Commission agrees to back a pair of projects

by Sarah Nagem

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- The Harrison County Commission on Monday agreed to support two development projects: A conference center/golf course and a glass pyramid conference center/museum.

The projects, totaling nearly $50 million, are contingent upon funding from a pool of $200 million in grant money from the new state Economic Development Grant Committee. After agreeing to give $70 million to Wheeling for a Victorian outlet mall, that leaves about $130 million for the state to divvy up.

About $1.9 billion in funding has been requested statewide, including $22.6 million for downtown Clarksburg revitalization projects.

The proposed golf course backed by commissioners would be the cornerstone of a prospective project between Bridgeport Country Club and Pete Dye Golf Club. A 63-acre area would consist of a two-story conference center with an exhibit area, meeting rooms and kitchen facilities that could feed about 800.

The project was proposed by Golf and Fairways, LLC, a corporation owned by Jim LaRosa, who owns Pete Dye, said Commissioner Roger Diaz.

A new 105-room hotel is also being planned, as well as tennis courts, a pool, parking facilities and a walking trail.

With support from the commission, L. Robert Kimball & Associates, an architectural and engineering company based in State College, Pa., will request a grant from the West Virginia Economic Development Grant Committee.

Larry Bickford, vice president and program manager of L. Robert Kimball & Associates, said the committee is more likely to approve the $35 million grant with the commission's support.

"The (facility) will bring people not from Harrison County into Harrison County," Bickford said. "I think it could become a real magnet for this part of the state."

The facility would create 100-200 new construction jobs and about 100 other jobs, Bickford said.

Commissioners agreed the project could boost the region's economy.

"I think the expansion is ideal for Harrison County," Diaz said. "I think the new projects will spawn a bunch of businesses."

Such businesses include restaurants and hotels.

"Without this type of facility, we're missing the boat. We have a lot to offer here," said Beth Taylor, commission president.

Bickford said the project could be completed by late 2004 or early 2005.

Later, though, more additions would include a public golf course, another clubhouse and hotel, an equestrian trail and a parking garage, Bickford said. Those projects would cost $20 million to $25 million.

Meanwhile, the $14 million glass pyramid conference center and museum would be located at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Interstate 79. The idea in part came from The Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tenn., a structure used for sporting events and concerts.

The facility would be eight stories with a seating capacity of 1,000. Mickey Petitto, spokesperson for the Pyramid Development Team in Clarksburg, said the facility could be used for conferences, entertainment and a museum.

"It would be a tribute to the glass industry, with a full glass museum," Petitto said.

Taxpayers would not pay anything for either project. Diaz said the state committee is not likely to approve both projects.

Also during Monday's meeting, commissioners approved the annexation of 6.19 acres south of Shinnston.

Shinnston City Manager Tom Painter presented a petition from citizens.

"It's at an advantageous area. It's a good location for businesses. We can foresee growth in this area," Painter said.

Residents of the newly annexed area will now have Shinnston police protection, water and sewage. Sewage rates for those residents will decrease, Painter said.

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