A local businessman and former NASCAR team owner plans on turning a 101-acre vacant industrial plant into an extreme sports training campus and education facility unique to North Carolina.
Whitehouse Extreme Sports Park will host a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at its proposed location on Whitehouse Drive. Site plans call for a motocross track, an Arenacross facility, BMX downhill and supercross tracks, an indoor motocross training facility and special event space.
Classroom and housing facilities would also be present at the location, as would basketball and volleyball courts, premium RV sites and an indoor/outdoor Junior Olympic swimming pool.
“We’ve got kids ready to enroll right now,” said Brittan Schnell, who owned Winston Cup teams in the 1990s that included former NASCAR Rookie of the Year Dick Trickle. “We’ve got track designers and we’ve got everybody pretty much lined up. We tried to make sure we got everybody lined up so that once we’re committed, we’re ready to go.”
For 39 years, the facility was used as a manufacturing plant for White House Foods, relying on Lincoln County apples to supply manufacturing lines of applesauce, apple juice and vinegar. It employed around 240 workers at one point and was the county’s largest water user until it closed down in 2009.
Schnell opened The Special Event Linen Co., a hotel and restaurant tablecloth manufacturer, at a portion of the plant in 2004. Almost instantly he envisioned using the location as a sporting facility and educational campus for athletes across the country, including his 14-year-old son Brantley, one of the country’s top young motocross racers.
Through Liberty University’s Online Academy, the park would admit students as young as sixth grade and allow them to earn high school diplomas and associate’s and bachelor’s degrees via online instruction.
“There are a lot of training facilities throughout the country but when you really look at it, many times their emphasis is truly just on the sport,” Schnell said. “We looked at being able to build a foundation with these kids’ lives. Through our partnership with Liberty University, we’re able to have these kids in a nontraditional educational role in a structured educational environment.”
The facility could host up to 800 people in its event space area. No other facility in the county can host more than 400 people, according to the company’s rezoning application.
A cold storage building would become home to classrooms and dorms, while vacant land would be converted into tracks and trails. Through an association with Joe Gibbs Racing, the facility plans to host regional racing events. According to a packet attached to the rezoning application, the park could host a national motocross event broadcast on FOX Sports or NBC Sports.
The park plans to have up to nine competition volleyball courts to host club volleyball tournaments. It can be up-fitted to house six basketball courts.
The company’s plan is to welcome 26 students initially, with most coming from outside county lines. Housing will be set up for 50 students, allowing for eventual expansion.
Former national champion motocross racer and AMA National Motorcycle Hall of Famer Mark Barnett is slated to design and build the facility’s motocross tracks. An indoor bowl would accommodate skaters and include halfpipes, quarterpipes, banked ramps and handrails.
A paintball course and remote control car dirt track are listed as amenities for the facility, which plans on operating during regular business hours and hosting indoor events in the evenings.
Zoning administrator Randy Hawkins said that while buildings are in place, they still need to be up-fitted. Construction won’t begin on the outdoor areas until the property is rezoned to planned development mixed use at a future Board of Commissioners meeting.