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As construction nears completion on two youth soccer fields at the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex, the facility’s board of directors is identifying other needs and improvements at the complex.

The soccer fields are part of the first phase of a master plan to renovate and expand the complex to help boost revenue by bringing in larger and more tournaments.

The project will also expand the variety of sports tournaments that can be hosted at a facility that was built primarily to accommodate baseball and softball.

The soccer fields are under construction on the south end of the complex and are adjacent to four baseball and softball fields that were also completed this year in phase one of the master plan.

On Friday, Cody Stringer of A.L. Franks Engineering, Inc., who designed and is overseeing the project, said construction is progressing on the soccer fields, save work by Entergy to install the electrical feed that is needed to power the lights at the soccer fields.

New light poles were recently installed for the soccer fields.

In an email, Jason Haley, also of A.L. Franks, informed board members that testing for the new lights will be conducted once Entergy gets the electrical power source up and running.

Stringer said plans are also to seed the soccer fields this fall, with crews expected to return in the spring for another application using Bermuda turf grass seed.

“I think that’s best, long term. They don’t want to do a fine-tooth grading until Entergy finishes and gets out of there with their trucks,” Stringer said Friday.

Concessions and restrooms

Complex board members also discussed the final component of phase one: new restrooms and concessions to serve the new fields on the south end of the complex.

The board previously agreed to scrap an initial plan for a plaza that would have included a concession stand and outdoor patio area for dining, public water fountains, restrooms, a coaches and umpires’ lounge, game room and office space for the complex manager.

After several design tweaks, cost-cutting measures and discussions about the location of the plaza, board members agreed to explore other options.

They are now considering kiosks that would be used only for concessions and building separate facilities for restrooms and a lounge for coaches and umpires.

Board member Keith Smith previously said he would research the matter, including cost options, and on Friday, board chairman Greg Harrison suggested some contacts at Murphy USA.

In September, the board cited kiosks that are used at many Murphy USA gas stations as an example of the type of concession facilities that would be suitable for the complex.

David Lee — executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, who manages the complex in a contract for service with the city of El Dorado — said he prefers the kiosks, rather than a traditional concession stand or plaza.

“I researched prices and we can get them built for less than $25,000 easily,” Lee told board members Friday.

He pointed to potential locations, saying that one kiosk could be set up for the south softball and baseball fields and another could be placed at the soccer fields.

“We just need to build a bathroom for fields 5 - 8. I think that would be so much simpler,” Lee said, referring to the softball and baseball fields.

Harrison reminded the group there is an existing set of restrooms near the Dumas Pavilion but there have been complaints about the walking distance between the restrooms and the softball/baseball fields.

The restrooms sit atop a hill just east of the fields.

Other projects

Harrison said survey work is still under way on four acres of land that Potlatch-Deltic has offered to donate to the complex to make way for expansion work that is being done on the south end of the facility, including the new soccer fields and a parking lot improvement and expansion project that is part of phase two of the master plan.

He previously reported that City Attorney Henry Kinslow is working with Potlatch to look into land surveys and possible easements to build a service road off Champagnolle Road that would lead to the new fields and also serve LifeTouch Hospice, which is adjacent to the complex.

The city of El Dorado has agreed to fold the parking lot improvements into its 2020 and 2021 street improvement program.

“The city is looking to take whatever milling is left over and use it for the parking lot,” he said. “I’ve gotten suggestions for the parking lot. Some people have suggested glow-in-the-dark paint. We are in desperate need of parking.”

During busier times at the complex, people have parked on hills and in grassy areas, including a spot that was blocked off last year because of ruts and other damage, Harrison said.

He also said there have been complaints of parked vehicles getting blocked in by other vehicles.

Lee said activities are slowing at the complex for the year, noting that contractors have experienced difficulty in booking tournaments because other activities, including hunting season, are revving up in South Arkansas.

Two girls’ softball tournaments have been scheduled for November and December and the BGCE is looking ahead to the 2021 tournament schedule, Lee said.

Additionally, he said the BGCE is juggling its work schedule and figuring out how best to utilize four part-time complex employees for events and practices during the day, evenings and weekends.

Lee said the slow season will allow the BGCE to tend to routine maintenance projects.

Smith revisited past discussions about the need to paint and spruce up the dugouts for the four older softball and baseball fields on the north side of the complex, or fields 1 - 4.

Board member Cynthia Bolding also inquired about a watery, overgrown ditch behind Field 1 on the north side of the complex, saying that the issue has been the source of several complaints over the years.

“It looks terrible. It’s such an eyesore,” Bolding said.

Lee said the ditch has been sprayed with grass and weed killer and crews will spray again in the spring.

“It needs to be cleaned out and concreted,” Lee said.

Harrison reminded the group that the master improvement and expansion plan was revised in early 2018 and included a recommendation for a splash pad/water-play feature in the area.

Stringer suggested filter fabric and rip-rap to address the drainage and weed issues.

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