President of the Upshur County Recreation Complex, Inc. Mitchell Shaw speaks at the Aug. 30 'Upshur Next' forum.

Local nonprofit envisions middle school property as site of future Upshur County Recreation Complex

Editor’s note: This story is about the Upshur County Recreation Complex’s tentative proposal to develop the current Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School property into a recreation complex — but only if the bond call passes and the middle school is relocated. The plans outlined in this story are not part of the bond call election in January 2022.

BUCKHANNON – A local nonprofit organization hopes to turn Buckhannon-Upshur Middle school into a recreational complex for the county.

The ‘Upshur Next’ plan includes a bond issue election that will determine if Upshur County Schools can move forward with building new high school and moving the middle school to the current high school. This plan could potentially leave the current middle school unoccupied.

That’s where a proposal hatched by the Upshur County Recreation Complex, Inc. Board and President Mitch Shaw comes into play. During the first scheduled public forum to discuss the ‘Upshur Next’ plan Aug. 30, Shaw said the property could become the home for Upshur County recreational sports, i.e., the Upshur County Recreation Complex facility the group has been fundraising for over the past five years.

“We are a board that was founded in the year 2017 by Mr. Shawn Tucker, and what we’re trying to do is build a recreation complex here in the county to facilitate better health and wellness for the community,” Shaw said. “We are a private nonprofit organization created to develop a recreation complex, aimed at enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Upshur County.”

The idea of the complex came about after Tucker found there weren’t enough athletic spaces in Upshur County.

“As a soccer coach, he was struggling to find facilities to practice at, to play games at, for his kids and soccer team, so he started getting frustrated with that, and came up with the idea of having a place that could house all these sports in one place,” Shaw said. “One of the things that he stressed as the leader of our organization was having a healthy community, and the needs of the [entire] community, aren’t being met with what we currently have.”

Shaw and the Recreation Complex Board have been looking for land on which to build the facility, and Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner gave them the idea to utilize the middle school property if the middle school is relocated to B-UHS. The UCRC’s plans for the middle school property are not part of the Jan. 15, 2022, bond issue election.

“The idea is to utilize the property as it sits, moving the bus garage closer to the two new schools that we’re trying to establish, and then basically, we could fit three full-scale soccer fields, a full-sized adult baseball field and then a softball field,” Shaw said. “The gymnasium we would like to keep. Obviously, we’re trying to build a recreation complex, and there’s a gymnasium already there, so why take it down?”

The image Shaw displayed to the forum also featured additional parking, a play area, a community center and a gathering space.

The original plan / Blueprint courtesy Mitch Shaw, UCRC
Updated plan with new ideas / Blueprint courtesy Robbie Skinner

“This is just to give you an idea of an opportunity that exists should this start moving quickly, and it shows what we can do with that place, so it doesn’t just sit there and become an eyesore,” Shaw said.

“You may ask, ‘What about what about all the school facilities that are already here? Can’t we use those?’” Shaw said. “Well, if you’re involved in sports or athletics outside of school, it is hard to get into the school facilities because the schools need them; they’re using them almost all the time. There are very few times they are open or ever available for the public as it should be. They are the school’s facilities, and they should be used for the schools.”

He said this new complex would be open to the public – youth, teens and adults of all ages — and could help in recruiting sports tournaments to the county, bringing visitors from other parts of the Mountain State.

“It would not be limited to just school members,” Shaw emphasized. “Sports organizations across the county – soccer, youth baseball, all of the different sports – would have a home. They wouldn’t have to worry about trying to borrow from the other schools; we can host tournaments year-round and then there’s something for everyone.”

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