By Tia Lyons
The El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex has been confirmed as a paid parking site for the Murphy Arts District.
During a special meeting on Friday, members of the complex’s board of directors finalized the details of a contract with El Dorado Festivals and Events, Inc., to use the complex parking lot.
The board also addressed other questions and concerns that cropped up during the discussion.
Festivals and Events is developing MAD, an arts and entertainment district on the south end of Downtown El Dorado.
The grand opening of MAD is set for Sept. 27 — Oct. 1 with a series of concerts featuring some of the biggest names in the music industry.
The grand opening celebration will be held in conjunction with MusicFest XXX, which will be presented by Main Street El Dorado in partnership with MAD on Sept. 29 — Oct. 1.
In preparation of the grand opening celebration and subsequent shows, MAD is working to secure parking space and offer shuttle service in areas around the city to accommodate out-of-town visitors.
Steve Harrell, athletic director for the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado — who manages the recreation complex on Champagnolle Road — previously told board members that the partnership with MAD will create a new revenue stream for the complex.
On Sept. 1, board members heard more about the proposal and raised more questions, including liability, lighting, accountability, staffing, etc.
Board members agreed then to look further into the matter before signing a contract with MAD.
Greg Harrison, chairman of the complex board, presented the final draft of the proposal to the board on Friday, saying that he had met earlier with MAD officials.
Parking spaces at the complex will cost $20 each, and the money will go back into the facility’s offers.
For the grand opening celebration, MAD will provide three passenger vans that will be scheduled for pickups and drop-offs every 30 minutes, Harrison said.
“They will be 15-passenger vans. They expect to pick up 90 to 100 people an hour and for each one of those vans to come through every 15 minutes,” he said.
The Boys and Girls Club will also provide a bus for a total of four vehicles that will ferry visitors between the complex and Downtown El Dorado.
MAD will also cover the costs of drivers, gasoline and the onsite security.
Harrison said two El Dorado police officers will remain onsite “until the last car leaves.”
Complex staff will also be onsite to collect money, open and close entrance gates, and perform other duties.
David Lee, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, inquired about the MAD schedule to determine what time the complex staff should be available.
Harrison contacted MAD officials during the meeting and later told board members that the transportation service will begin at noon.
“So they should be there by 11:30 (a.m.),” Harrison said.
MAD will also provide barricades should the complex reach capacity — approximately 200 – 250 parking spaces are available — and no longer accept parking.
An unexpected issue with MAD prompted a revision to the proposal, Harrison told board members.
Harrison said MAD learned that due to liability issues, the El Dorado School District no longer provides school buses to the Boys and Girls Club.
“They’re renting those three passenger vans out of Shreveport (Louisiana), so it’s an issue where they went from having no expenses to having expenses, so it’s something we need to discuss,” Harrison said.
The contract included a clause that opens up negotiations for the complex to help cover costs, if possible, upon the conclusion of the grand opening celebration.
“I want to support that effort. Even if we break even, we should do it from that standpoint,” board member Stacy Scroggins said. “We’re still serving the community, even if we don’t get the money we thought we would make.”
Other board members agreed.
“This is the first thing that’s really been big in El Dorado, and we’ve got to make that happen,” said Dianne Hammond, complex vice-chairman and member of the El Dorado City Council.
Harrison touched on a concern about liability that was raised during the Sept. 1 meeting, saying that he had researched the insurance policy on the complex that is held by Union County.
Union County and the city of El Dorado share the annual operating budget for the complex.
Harrison, who also serves on the Union County Quorum Court, said any accidents that occur on the parking lot would be a personal liability issue between the parties involved, per the existing insurance policy.
“If there’s a sinkhole or a tree falls on a car, that’s a different issue,” Harrison said.
After some discussion, the board voted to provide contract tickets to visitors.
The tickets will provide details releasing the complex from any liability should such an incident occur and explain that visitors are parking there at their own risk.
The tickets will be distributed when visitors pay for parking spaces.
Board members also agreed to keep the Dumas Pavilion and the restrooms open for visitors as they await the shuttle service.
The complex will be closed for other activities, including athletic games and practices and pavilion rentals, when the parking lot is being used for MAD events.
Board member Will Crowder, also a member of the quorum court, cited the need for adequate lighting on the parking lot.
“Even with the lighting we have now, I have heard complaints during athletic events,” he said.
Mayor Frank Hash offered the use of a portable light tower the city has in stock, and board members agreed to turn on the lights on some of the ball fields during the times the parking lot is used for MAD.
“Anything that’ll help for right now,” Crowder said.
Board members said safeguards will also be in place to prevent people from sneaking into the complex to park without paying.
Lee inquired about the use of RV sites at the complex when the parking is being used for MAD.
After a brief discussion, board members agreed to address the issue if it arises and supported the use of the RV sites, saying it presented another opportunity to bring in revenue for the complex.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or email@example.com.