El Dorado News

March 17, 2018
El Dorado News Times

Upgrades possible for El Dorado-Union County Sports Complex

By Kaitlyn Rigdon
This article was published February 20, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

Perry Carr, with ETC Engineers & Architects, Inc., presented to the Union County Quorum Court a possible outline for future upgrades of the El Dorado-Union County Sports Complex.

If starting from scratch, the operation could cost more than $7 million.

“We do have four existing fields that have been in operation since the 1980s and a 12-and-under baseball and a 12-and-under softball field already,” Justice Greg Harrison said.

Carr said the price will come down significantly because of the existing fields, “but we definitely want to fix those up instead of just patching here and there.”

Currently, the fields do not meet the requirements of Triple A, which is to have access to two baseball fields in order to host tournaments.

The total cost was broken down into five categories: One college field with stadium seating (optional; $2 million), four junior soccer fields ($150,000), parking lot improvements ($520,000), splash pad (optional; $550,000) and existing pavilion site improvements ($410,000).

The Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado offers a soccer field, but Harrison said there wasn’t enough parking spaces last fall with all of the sports events.

“One thing the complex board has already done is taken down 13 trees in anticipation of expanding that parking lot and adding at least 60 to 65 spaces,” Harrison said.

The splash pad was discussed as the Murphy Arts District is in the process of building a splashpad in the downtown area. Carr noted there are a million ways to shave the budget he came up with.

“I’m throwing everything and the whole moon at it right now,” he said. “I came in with the biggest budget I could come up with.”

Harrison said he has been talking with MAD about trying to partner with them with the sports complex in the future.

“If we have a tournament, they’re going to have a show that’s targeted towards youth so whenever those kids are done playing in the tournament, they can go back to the hotel to clean up and go downtown for the event,” he said. “For everybody that buys tickets, they also will receive packets that go out from the complex marketing both entities together.”

Carr said an anonymous group came forward saying they were interested in helping with finances for the sports complex and requested a college baseball field be considered.

“Cost skyrockets when talking about a college stadium,” Carr said. “We’re probably adding right at $1 million to make that a college quality field as apposed to a tournament quality field.”

Adding a college baseball field could potentially lead to a future junior college team.

Something not on the list was an RV park. Harrison said when MAD opened in September, an RV group contacted them for a place to stay.

“They had a group of 500 RVs and they were needing a place to reside for the weekend and we didn’t have it,” Harrison said.

Carr said almost every field he has helped with eventually added an RV park.

“When we started this, it was ‘can we build two or three new fields?’ And the answer is yes,” Carr said. “That cost can be cut down for one full field and we’re probably looking at $1.2 million and then forget the rest of the stuff … or we can continue to make the park competitive and the best you can get.”

The company has designed a built numerous complexes in the state, including ones in Batesville, Cabot, Bryant and Heber Springs.

Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh said “the average monthly sales tax revenue has increased by 16 percent since the facilities were constructed.”

Cabot’s community center, constructed by ETC Engineers & Architects, holds 16 tournaments a year and their city’s Advertising & Promotion tax has increased by 10 percent since being completed.

Currently, the Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado is managing all of the scheduling at the sports complex. They have raised the rental fee for each field from $75 to $125 per day, Harrison said.

“Youth sports tourism is one of the biggest revenue generators that we’re seeing in this day and age,” Harrison said. “Teams are traveling all over the country, going to different states to have the opportunity to play.”

To move forward with the plan, they will present the proposition to the Economic Development Board “and with this other entity that could eventually work out if we work collaboratively together, we could have something really nice for the youth of our county,” Harrison said.

One of the main issues the complex is currently facing is that it’s not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“That’s something, regardless of what we do, (that) needs to be updated,” Harrison said.

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or krigdon@eldoradonews.com.

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