07R Small ToneyThe city of Fayetteville official who served as project director for the new minor league baseball Segra Stadium will not be attending this spring’s special events. The city manager’s office said former Deputy City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney “was invited but is unable to attend.” Up & Coming Weekly inquired but received no response from her.

Years before it had a name, Segra Stadium was Small-Toney’s idea. Soon after the city hired Small-Toney in 2013, she said she was asked to come up with an economic development plan for downtown Fayetteville.

The sports enthusiast suggested minor league baseball. She was the first African American to play women’s varsity basketball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Small-Toney helped jump-start discussions about bringing professional baseball back to Fayetteville. She oversaw all phases of the project, including the feasibilitystudy; recruitment of the Houston Astros, a Class A Advanced minor league team; development of the memorandum of understanding; and the creation of a 30-year financial plan.

The stadium and a mixed-use commercial property development plan brought the new owners of the former Prince Charles Hotel on board. City Council granted PCH Holdings of Durham an exclusive contract to develop the property adjacent to the stadium. The results include a pair of buildings atop a five-story parking garage. PCH also renovated the hotel and converted it into an eight-story apartment building. The investments thus far represent more than $100 million in new development.

Small-Toney has baccalaureate and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has 35 years of experience in government. Before leaving her post in 2016, she confirmed the city’s interest in building a stadium and eventually bringing in a minor league team: “The city is very much interested, I think, in pursuing the construction of a minor league stadium,” she said.

During her tenure, Small-Toney led a group of local leaders and other representatives of Fayetteville on tours of several ballparks and cities over several months. Those sites included Durham, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Sugarland, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee. Of all those ballparks, only the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was built before 2012. The D-BAP had a $19 million makeover at the end of the 2013 season.

The stadiums in Durham, Columbia, Nashville and Charlotte also were built downtown, to trigger an influx of business and development. Small-Toney said from the start that this was an important objective of a new stadium. “We have a redevelopment plan that includes a minor league baseball stadium,” Small- Toney said in a late 2016 interview.

Small-Toney now serves as city manager of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Photo: Rochelle Small-Toney

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