SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. – Officials with Smith Mountain Lake have talked about building a community center for almost two decades. Even the day before a WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were killed during a live interview in 2015.
" We were working that morning on Aug. 26 on the 50th anniversary and all of the joyous things that were coming with it and the people and the reach. And we had a very tragic shooting," Vicki Gardner, board member of Smith Mountain Lake Center Board, said.
Gardner was there that morning. She was the lone survivor. Gardner was being interviewed regarding SML's 50th Anniversary by WDBJ when Gardner was shot. She was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
"Coming out of that we really felt, I felt so strongly that something good, positive with lasting effect could happen in this community as a result of that horrible tragedy," Gardner said.
Shortly after, the Smith Mountain Lake Center Board was re-established. It conducted a survey to see if people would support a center which could be used for entertainment and educational purposes.
"There's a strong need as voiced by the residents of Bedford and Franklin counties, across the counties. We know that the data now supports this. We're going to make this thing a reality," said Walter "Woody" Hogle, president of Smith Mountain Lake Center Board.
Officials say the survey has shown, in the first year for the region, the center could generate $45 to $50 million of additional economic activity.
"That generates to $3 to $5 million in tax revenue for localities and for the state," Hogle said.
Officials say it's too early to say what the facility would cost. As they search for investors, they're looking at sites and exploring the ideas of building from scratch or renovating an existing building.