As the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex Board begins the process of pursuing funding to continue the implementation of a master plan, at the complex, smaller-scale projects are under way for the start of the busy season at the facility.
During a meeting on Jan. 12, board members outlined the strategy by which they will prepare funding proposals to present to city and county officials.
The board plans to meet next month with Perry Carr of the Little Rock-based ETC Engineers and Architects, who is reviewing and tweaking a master plan that was drafted in 2014 by CADM Architecture, Inc.
The improvement and expansion plan came with an initial budget estimate of $1.6 million.
The plan calls for the completion of the two newest fields on the south end of the complex, additional fields and related facilities — restrooms, concession stand, etc. — and more parking space.
The revised plan from ETC will be the key cog in a proposal that will be taken to the Union County Quorum Court and the El Dorado Works Board, which administers the El Dorado Forward economic development tax.
If the proposal is approved by the EWB, it will be presented to the El Dorado City Council for final approval.
Meanwhile, Steve Harrell, athletic director of the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado — who has a contract for services with the city of El Dorado to manage the complex —, provided a status report on maintenance and improvement projects the board approved in late last summer.
First, Harrell announced that several large tournaments have already been lined up for the year, starting with a USSSA adult softball tournament on Feb. 24.
Three state baseball tournaments for 11 and 12 year olds, including a Cal Ripkin tilt, are slated for late June and July.
“Because of the success of a Cal Ripken district tournament we did last year, district commissioners came down to look at what we did,” Harrell said.
“We’re going to try to get more adult and girls softball out there. We’re going to work with the USSSA to get sanctioned tournaments,” he added.
Last September, board members agreed to use the projected ending balance in the 2017 budget to spruce up some of the existing amenities at the complex.
Three truckloads of Alabama topsoil were delivered last week to improve the existing softball and baseball fields.
“We’re going to use it to patch up those infields and have some left for the new fields that we want to build,” Harrell said.
Harrell said the complex and city crews are awaiting warmer weather to start work on replacing the roofs on eight dugouts on the four fields that ring the north end of the complex.
Board members previously discussed replacing the worn roofs with insulated roofing panels that come with a lifetime guarantee.
The city’s Department of Public Works agreed to install the the framework to help make the new roofs more sturdy.
Plans also call for the addition of a roof for a small gazebo behind the concession stand. The gazebo does not currently have a roof.
Several trees were recently removed in the area where the south playground was formerly located.
Clean Harbors donated $60,000 to purchase new playground equipment, which was installed last year.
The old equipment was removed, and the new playground was moved eastward, closer to the Dumas Pavilion.
Harrell and Greg Harrison, board chairman and member of the quorum court, said the tree stumps will be removed to expand the parking lot.
Harrison said the space will accommodate dozens of new parking spaces near the two fields on the south side of the complex.
The board also renewed the contract with its concessionaire.
Representing her parents John and Lisa Duran, Carmen Duran — of the family-owned Kozy Kitchen restaurant — inquired about a clause that prohibits competition for food sales at the complex.
Board members pointed to an issue that arose last year during a softball tournament when a group prepared and sold food in one of the pavilions at the complex.
Harrison said the sale was not approved, and he said members of the group said they received the OK from a complex employee.
Carmen Duran said the concessionaire provides a variety of foods and is equipped to accommodate a tournament or special event with adequate notification.
“If they come to us, we can work out deals to change stuff up,” Carmen Duran said.
Board members said such issues should flow through Harrell, the point person for the Boys and Girls Club at the complex.
Carmen also asked for an improvement in the lines of communication, pointing to instances in which the concessionaire did not learn that games were cancelled until after food was prepared for the day.
“If a game is at (6 p.m.), we’re there at 3 (p.m.). Whatever I cook, I have to throw out,” she said.
“We will communicate as best we can, no one will be allowed to cook against y’all in the future, and when they do, they’ll be in breach of contract,” Harrell said.
• Harrison said the Diamond Agency has secured several sponsorships for the year for signs and banners, including a new front entrance sign that will be covered by the Medical Center of South Arkansas.
The board recently entered into a contract with Diamond Agency to pursue sponsorships to help boost revenue at the complex.
Harrell said pavilion rentals are already picking up for 2018.
Plans didn’t work out as well as expected for an idea for a new revenue stream.
The complex offered paid parking for the opening of the Murphy Arts District last October, and Harrell said the service was underutilized.
The complex also worked with MAD to provide free shuttle service for the grand opening.
“It was not as successful as we’d hoped. We learned they don’t need us,” Harrell said.
• Board member Keith Smith said the board should also consider erecting a sign on the south playground to recognize the Clean Harbors donation.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.