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Developer's Plans For Old Athey Plant Growing Like Weeds

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. — An old manufacturing plant in Wake County looks more like a farmer's field that is overrun with weeds. But one developer sees it as his field of dreams -- for everyone else to play on.

Tuesday, only the weeds were working at the old Athey street-sweeper plant. Layoffs kicked in at Wake Forest's largest employer just before Christmas of 2000. Within a few months, all the employees were gone.

But soon, the weeds will be gone, and workers will be back.

Developer Jeff Ammons is thinking big. He just bought the 220,000 square-foot building. The $4 million investment followed months of landing tenants for "The Factory."

The complex will sport two ice rinks, indoor soccer, gymnastics and a fitness center. Also in the plans: restaurants, a ballet and music school, baby shops, even paint-your-own pottery.

"It's just an awesome structure," Ammons said, "concrete roof, concrete columns. It is a concrete floor. It is just the perfect building block for our facility.

"There are lots of other things the facility could have been. But there was a real need, and if everything comes together to supply some sort of entertainment for everyone in the family, it will just be a terrific project for everyone involved."

It was a big job loading the finished street sweepers onto railroad cars, and the old tracks lead to another big job: Ammons is trying to get more than $1 million from Wake County for an amateur baseball complex out back.

Wake Forest is one of the fastest growing towns in the Triangle. Soon, it will not be just the weeds growing at the old street-sweeper plant.

Ammons said he hopes to have part of the complex open by Thanksgiving. The ice rinks probably will not be ready until next summer.


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