They may be covered with snow now but come fall, two new soccer fields could be ready for play at the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex.
The pair of youth soccer fields on the southeast end of the complex have been seeded and the grass is growing, members of the complex’s board of directors learned during a regular meeting earlier this month.
Board chairman Greg Harrison reported that A.L. Franks Engineering — the engineering firm that tweaked the design for and is overseeing a master plan to improve and renovate the complex — is working with Entergy to run electrical power to the soccer fields.
Harrison said that component of the project was expected to have been completed in January but work is ongoing coordinate the project.
The soccer fields are a part of phase one of the two-phase master plan.
“I expect to see tournaments out there this fall,” Harrison said of the soccer fields.
Other components of phase one are the completion two existing youth baseball and softball fields and the addition of two new youth fields, all on the south end of the complex, and the installation of turf, lighting and fencing on four older fields on the north end of the facility.
The soccer fields and new concessions and restroom facilities on the south end of the facility are the remaining components of phase one, which is being covered by a $2.7 million budget from the El Dorado Works tax.
The tax is earmarked for economic development, infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.
Last summer, the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission kicked in an additional $257,000 to help complete the soccer fields after the phase-one budget hit a snag.
Attending his first meeting as a newly-appointed member of the complex board, El Dorado City Council Member Billy Blann asked Feb. 5 if the A&P commission’s contribution will be enough to finish the soccer fields.
“The soccer fields are completed. There is no money for the concession stand or restrooms,” Harrison said.
Harrison explained that the complex board initially spoke with two firms who said they could complete the scope of work for phase one within the $2.66 million budget.
Board members went with A.L. Franks upon hearing from city officials that the city had a professional services contract with the Texarkana-based firm.
However, the board later received invoices for A.L. Franks’ services after learning that while the city had the engineering firm on retainer, the retainer did not extend to the recreation complex.
The city and Union County contribute to the annual operating budget for the complex and the city agreed in 2019 to assume administrative duties from the county.
Payments to A.L. Franks and dirt work for the soccer fields depleted the budget to complete the new soccer fields, concession stand and restrooms to serve the south end of the complex.
A.L. Franks initially presented designs for a concessions plaza that included a concessions area, restrooms, an umpires and coaches’ lounge and office space for the complex manager, the Boys and Girls of El Dorado, which operates and manages the complex with a $40,000 annual contract for services with the city.
With budget restrictions and logistical concerns about how such a facility would fit within available space on the south end of the complex, board members are now considering an offer by Murphy USA to donate two old kiosks to serve as concession stands for the softball, baseball and soccer fields that are just south of the Dumas Pavilion.
MUSA uses the kiosks at many of its gasoline stations.
Harrison said the kiosks are more logistically feasible and the county and Murphy USA are coordinating options to deliver the kiosks to the complex.
One of the kiosks comes with two restrooms, Harrison said, adding, “That’s helping our needs but as we start to have more tournaments, there’s going to be a need for more restrooms.”
An existing restroom facility that is adjacent to the Dumas pavilion has eight stalls — four each in separate units for men and women.
Board members have said that more restrooms will be needed as the complex expands and hosts more tournaments.
Board member Cynthia Bolding has championed more stalls for women, saying that lines tend to back up in women’s restrooms more often than in the men’s restroom.
Harrison said there has been some discussion about expanding the existing restrooms next to the Dumas Pavilion or using mobile restroom units during large tournaments.
Board members said they will continue to explore options for additional restrooms as they look ahead to the second phase of the master plan.
Phase two and short-term plans for the parking lot
Phase two calls for a new baseball field for older teens and adults, parking lot expansion and improvements and a walking trail that would encircle the facility and possibly connect with an existing walking trail that surrounds Lions Club Municipal Golf Course, the Union County Fairgrounds and the El Dorado School District soccer fields on East 19th Street.
Harrison said City Attorney Henry Kinslow is expected to draw up a resolution granting an easement to PotlatchDeltic, who is donating land on the south of the complex to make way for the phase two expansion.
Potlatch would have to be able to access other land it owns in the area, per state law, Harrison explained.
Blann said he would reach out to Kinslow about the resolution, which would require a vote by the city council.
As a short-term fix for the parking lot, board members have discussed re-striping the existing parking lot to clearly mark spaces for visitors.
One idea was to contact youth groups, possibly local Boy Scouts who are looking to complete an Eagle Scout project.
On Feb. 5, board members asked David Lee, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, to contact Robert Edmonds, El Dorado director of public works, about painting the stripes.
Harrison said funding for the project could come from the complex’s 2021 budget once the budget is approved by the city council.
“We need to make that more of a priority. It’ll help guide people through the parking lot. It’s a safety issue — safety for the kids, safety for everyone,” he said.