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Recreation Complex Board continues efforts to raise funds, expand

By Tia Lyons
This article was published April 16, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

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.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.

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