Re­cre­ation Com­plex Board con­tin­ues ef­forts to raise funds, ex­pand

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - Tia Lyons Staff Writer

The El Do­rado-Union County Re­cre­ation Com­plex board of di­rec­tors is con­tin­u­ing ef­forts to raise money for a mas­ter im­prove­ment and ex­pan­sion plan for the fa­cil­ity.

Greg Har­ri­son, board chair­man, said the group is ex­plor­ing sev­eral po­ten­tial fund­ing sources, in­clud­ing the El Do­rado Works tax, state grants and an of­fer of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance by a lo­cal, anony­mous group.

In-kind ser­vices and la­bor by the city of El Do­rado and Union County, both of whom con­trib­ute to the an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get for the com­plex, are also op­tions to help make the plan come to fruition, Har­ri­son said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, board mem­bers have been drum­ming up sup­port for the plan by mak­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to the Union County Quo­rum Court — on which Har­ri­son and com­plex board mem­ber Will Crow­der serve — and lo­cal civic groups.

The mas­ter plan for the com­plex was orig­i­nally de­signed in 2014 by lo­cal firm CADM Ar­chi­tec­ture, Inc.

The plan called for more park­ing space and ad­di­tional fields and re­lated fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing re­strooms, con­ces­sions, dugouts and bat­ting cages. The projects were bro­ken into two phases and came with a pre­lim­i­nary bud­get es­ti­mate of nearly $1.7 mil­lion.

Late last year, the board turned to ETC En­gi­neers and Architects, Inc., to tweak and up­date the mas­ter plan.

The Lit­tle Rock-based ETC has worked on projects for var­i­ous parks and re­cre­ation, mul­tiuse and aquatic fa­cil­i­ties around the state.

More than a decade ago, ETC as­sisted the com­plex board in se­cur­ing a state grant to build the two new­est fields at the com­plex.

In Fe­bru­ary, ETC un­veiled a re­vised mas­ter plan that not only ad­dressed ad­di­tional fields and park­ing im­prove­ments, but also of­fered dif­fer­ent con­cepts that in­cluded other ameni­ties at the com­plex and re­spec­tive “prob­a­ble cost” bud­gets.

The high­est cost op­tion was a $7.1 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion that calls for a col­lege base­ball field with sta­dium seat­ing, four ju­nior soc­cer fields, a splash pad wa­ter fea­ture, new and ren­o­vated re­strooms and im­prove­ments to the ex­ist­ing pavil­ions, RV site and the en­trance­way into the com­plex.

The “first con­cept” and low­est cost op­tion was nearly $1.2 mil­lion, with two new soft­ball fields, ren­o­va­tion of ex­ist­ing base­ball and soft­ball fields and im­prove­ments to the RV site and en­try­way.

All of the con­cep­tual de­signs con­sid­ered im­prove­ments for Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Lights for the park­ing lots are also a pri­or­ity for the com­plex board.

“Once the (field) lights are turned off, it’s pitch black out there,” Crow­der said dur­ing a reg­u­lar monthly board meet­ing on April 6,

Har­ri­son said board mem­bers are still re­view­ing the plan to de­cide on a fi­nal de­sign con­cept.

The goal, board mem­bers have said, is to make the com­plex the pre­miere recre­ational fa­cil­ity in the re­gion by draw­ing more and larger tour­na­ments and other ac­tiv­i­ties and boost­ing rev­enue.

“I think it would be a good draw for the com­mu­nity,” Har­ri­son told board mem­bers. “My hope is that I can wake up at nine o’clock on a Satur­day morn­ing and go out there and watch my kids play and all the ho­tels are full.”

Board mem­ber and El Do­rado Al­der­man Dianne Ham­mond sug­gested that the board meet with Main Street El Do­rado and the Down­town Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion to come with pro­mo­tions to draw com­plex vis­i­tors down­town.

“I think it’ll be a good in­vest­ment for them,” Ham­mond said.

Sell­ing the plan

Board mem­bers are work­ing to sell the plan through­out the com­mu­nity and help to se­cure fund­ing.

The anony­mous group was ex­pected to meet on April 10, but the meet­ing was can­celed, Har­ri­son said.

He said he ex­pects the group to con­vene at some point and re­view the plan pro­posal — which could lead to fi­nan­cial sup­port in the fu­ture.

“In the mean­time, we’re tak­ing ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties we do have to de­crease the cost bur­den,” Har­ri­son said.

He said the board is de­vel­op­ing strate­gic ideas for a grant ap­pli­ca­tion that is to be sub­mit­ted to the Arkansas De­part­ment of Parks and Tourism by Aug. 25.

Past ADPT grant awards have as­sisted in build­ing the two new­est fields that are south­west of the Du­mas Pav­il­ion and in­stalling lights and elec­tric­ity for the fields.

The board also plans to take a fund­ing re­quest to the El Do­rado Works Board, which ad­min­is­ters the city’s one-cent sales tax for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Fund­ing pro­pos­als that are ap­proved by the EWB are then pre­sented to the El Do­rado City Coun­cil for a fi­nal OK.

On­go­ing main­te­nance and im­prove­ments

Com­plex board mem­bers are also keep­ing an eye on smaller im­prove­ment and main­te­nance projects at the com­plex.

Har­ri­son said he has spo­ken with Union County Judge Mike Loftin about us­ing county la­bor to in­stall new roofs on the dugouts on the four old­est fields at the com­plex.

“We’re go­ing to try to do the work at a time where it doesn’t in­ter­fere with any other ac­tiv­i­ties,” Har­ri­son said.

Board mem­bers pre­vi­ously agreed to use money that was avail­able in the 2017 com­plex bud­get to cover the cost of the eight new dugout roofs and other projects, in­clud­ing adding a roof to a small pav­il­ion near the con­ces­sion stand.

Ham­mond said an ir­ri­ga­tion box will be moved to the two new­est fields as the weather per­mits.

Steve Har­rell — of the Boys and Girls Club of El Do­rado, who man­ages the com­plex per a con­tract for ser­vices with the city — said that be­cause of im­prove­ments to one of the older fields, a youth travel base­ball team has moved to the com­plex.

“Last year, Field 4 was a dis­as­ter. Now, it’s in good shape,” Har­rell said.

Har­rell and David Lee, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Boys and Girls Cub, said the El Do­rado Fire De­part­ment is us­ing a con­trolled burn to as­sist with clear­ing an over­grown drainage ditch be­hind Field 1.

Crow­der also re­quested that some­thing be done to im­prove drainage on an area that was re­cently cleared of trees. The area on the south side of the com­plex near the for­mer play­ground was cleared to make room for more park­ing space.

Har­ri­son said the park­ing project is tied to the mas­ter plan.

“We can at least cover it with dirt so the wa­ter can drain off. It looks tacky just sit­ting there the way it is,” Crow­der said.

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