MILTON — Sitting on the edge of Cabell County, the city of Milton can easily be described as a sleepy town. Like many West Virginia cities, it has an aging population, and other than Blenko Glass, there is not much to draw in tourists.
But the city's administration wants to change that, and with the help of the Hoops family, the ball is rolling toward a future Milton residents might find hard to imagine.
The Hoops family, led by Jeff and Patricia Hoops, announced in October, in conjunction with the city of Milton, that they would be turning the former Morris Memorial Hospital into a resort called the Grand Patrician.
Jeff Hoops explained that "patricians" were the best of the best of ancient Roman society, so it's both an homage to his wife and a declaration of what the hotel will be.
The preliminary plans included a 100-room hotel with additional extended-stay suites, indoor/outdoor pool facilities, grand ballroom and conference center, a 250-seat wedding chapel, a gym and workout facility, a medical clinic and physical rehab center, a restaurant, a grand fountain in front of the hotel, youth and adult baseball fields, youth and adult softball fields, soccer fields, an activity complex and trails, an amphitheater, a nine-hole par-3 golf course, stables and horse trails, residential townhomes and public access to all facilities.
The baseball fields will be replicas of famous ballparks like Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and along with being a beautiful destination wedding spot, the Hoops family envisions the resort to be a destination for summer camps and youth sport competitions.
As of March, those plans have changed slightly because of the hospital's historic status, said Milton director of development Rodney Pell.
The hospital itself will no longer become the hotel because the number of changes needed is not possible due to the building being on the national historic registry. Instead, the hospital will be converted into a 50-unit retirement home.
The hotel will be built on the other side of the property and will be able to be exactly as the Hoops family imagined, including a pool, fitness center, conference rooms and an outdoor wedding chapel.
Also included in the updated master plan is a 3-par golf course, a clubhouse, an indoor sports complex, the ballfields and an amphitheater. There will be about 80 condo units, 22 single-family home lots and 26 duplex units, along with office space.
"Our city has an aging residential core," Pell said. "A lot of people are hesitant to buy an older home and invest the time and resources to remodel that structure or tear it down and build a brand-new home. But there are people who like this area at the same time.
"If we have the ability to offer them a blank slate, if you will, and create a space that is enticing for them and checks the box - is it close to where I work? Is it close to a school I like? Does it have certain amenities I want in my life? - those are the types of things just being on this property you will have already ticked off a lot of those boxes, and it creates interest immediately."
The updated master plan also includes space for future developments. Pell said he has gotten international interest for that piece of property.
Even with the changes to the purpose of the hospital, the total plan is still a testament to the vision of the Hoops family, Pell said. He described the Grand Patrician Resort as The Greenbrier meets Kings Island.
"The Hoopses are a family-oriented people," Pell said. "They are very concerned about the status of families and how family has changed. What they are really creating here is a space to put technology down and actually get together as a family, go enjoy a baseball game, go enjoy a concert, take a walk around the park, play a round of golf and just get outside. At the same time, you get to live on this property. You can work on this property and they can play on the property. It really shows what I consider to be the philosophy of how the Hoopses approach their day-to-day lives and their business interests."
Pell said the city is trying to mirror that approach by streamlining the process for potential development.
"If somebody comes to Milton and says, 'We would like to do "insert name of business here,''' the city doesn't create any unnecessary obstructions," Pell said. "We don't want to steal West Virginia's old slogan 'Open for Business,' but we are open to suggestions. We are certainly willing to listen if someone comes in with a plan. We have a 'show me your plan' attitude."
There are 10-15 additional properties along the U.S. 60 corridor that are also open for development.
Pell admitted it's an aggressive plan, but thanks to the fact no public money is being used for the hotel property, the city can use its funds for other projects.
"We hope as word of mouth gets out, it will encourage different types of businesses to either locate or relocate in the Milton area," Pell said. "Everything from restaurant industries - we aren't really focusing on the retail industry right now, but if it fits our plan, we are not going to turn anything away. We hope this will fix some of the regional demographic concerns so some more well-known, named type of businesses may take a second look instead of looking at West Virginia and being too concerned about our demographics, our topography."
Pell said they aren't trying to be like any other city in the state - they are trying to be Milton. He said you can feel the positive energy within the city.
The resort is still in its early stages, with the hospital undergoing asbestos abatement so far. Pell said the golf course will be one of the first projects completed and it could be ready as early as the fall.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.