CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The sun has officially set on a more than 40-year-old staple of the Town Center Mall as Charleston officials say they now look ahead to the future, and the construction of an $80 million sports complex to take its place.

Members of the media met with the City of Charleston and the Kanawha County Commission to get a last look at the former Macy’s building Monday before it’s torn down later this week. Construction on the new Capital Sports Center is expected get underway at the site following the demolition.

Amy Shuler Goodwin

Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin told reporters that the location, which is directly across the street from the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center and just a stones throw away from most of the city’s hotels and restaurants was ideal, as the future complex is anticipated to be host to thousands.

“What’s so exciting about this part of town is you’re seeing a total revitalization,” said Goodwin. “This has become, in this section of town, kind of the sports and entertainment hub.”

The former Macy’s had sat empty since 2019.

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango said that the building will be demolished in phases, with the process set to begin on Thursday when city and county officials will reconvene at the site for a press conference.

He said demolition will take about six to eight weeks, then they will have to finalize the architectural drawings of the new sports center, which is expected to include several basketball, volleyball, and pickleball courts, a soccer field, a running track, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and more.

Salango said, then, the actual construction on the complex will take about another two years to complete.

“So, we’re about three years out, but you have to start somewhere and this is where we’re starting,” Salango said.

Ben Salango

He said this is the largest project the city and county has ever taken on together.

Salagno said they have worked very hard on the plans for the project and it has taken them about two years to get to this point.

“It was a much bigger challenge, a lot of obstacles, including legal obstacles, than we had anticipated, but this week we’re going to start the demolition, we were able to close on the property last week,” he said.

Salango said the new complex is also expected to bring in much more foot-traffic to the mall, which he added that the lack thereof served as a major driver in the recent and immediate loss of two longtime restaurants there– the Chop House and the Tidewater Grill.

He said, however, that the future sports facility is not being built to save the mall, rather it’s to provide a significant economic impact to the city and the entire state.

“This is not necessarily mall-specific, I think it will help whatever’s left of the mall, but we’re not looking back at 1995, I’m trying to think and the mayor is trying to think of 2025 and 2035,” Salango said.

The Tidewater Grill had been at the mall for 39 years, and the Chop House had also seen a couple of dozen years as a tenant of the Town Center, as well, which opened in 1983.

Goodwin said while a lot of great memories reside within the two now former restaurants, their closures mark a motion to look ahead.

“Birthdays, anniversaries, graduation parties, great celebrations that happened in both of those facilities, but as we look towards the future, what’s going to be there,” she said.

Goodwin said sports tourism is a major aspect highlighting the economy of tomorrow, and she said the new complex will only help to energize and continue the momentum the city has already garnered through sporting events and the tourism it brings in.

She said Monday, reiterating what Salango had previously stated, sports tourism went from a $19 billion industry to a $40 billion industry just in the span of two and a half years, and they hope to further advance that in the city through the complex.

Goodwin said just like the past, the location will continue to serve as a staple to the community as well as the state.

“There’s a lot of memories, a lot of history, but what we’re looking forward is the future, what can this be,” she said. “And just like what the mall did back in 1983, being one of the largest malls in the country, this is also going to bring in the type of future growth and future development,” said Goodwin.

Salango said the city and county have each put in $5 million towards the construction of the Capital Sports Center, and in addition, they have received a federal earmark of $2 million from Senator Joe Manchin.

He said the next steps for acquiring funding for the projected $80 million facility will fall to additional direct funding spending requests and bond payments.

The Sports Development Authority Board charged with handling the project’s business affairs hired Sports Facilities Inc., a company who has worked with around 70 different sports complexes throughout the country.

Rodney Loftis & Sons is handling the demolition and ZMM Architects is working through preliminary designs of the new facility.

The press conference on the Capital Sports Center is set for this Thursday at 1 p.m.