Posted on February 4, 2019
By Tia Lyons
The El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex Board is coming up with a game plan to spend $2.6 million to begin implementing a master plan for the multipurpose recreation facility on Champagnolle Road.
After a hard-fought battle, the board convinced the El Dorado Works Board and the El Dorado City Council on Jan. 24 to approve more than $2.6 million from the city’s one-cent, economic development sales tax to launch the first phase of a years-old improvement plan.
The two-phase plan was drafted in 2014 by CADM Architecture, Inc., and was tweaked last year by Little Rock-based ETC Engineers and Architects, Inc.
The ETC revision included a mix of upgrades and new construction projects, with probable costs ranging from $1.2 to $7 million.
Following several months of discussion with city and Union County officials in 2018, complex board members whittled down their wish list for phase one to the completion of two existing youth fields on the south end of the complex and the construction of two adjacent fields — all with restrooms, concession stands, breakrooms and Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility.
The concessions plaza will include a game room and coaches and umpires’ lounge.
Four youth soccer fields were later incorporated into the first phase, which carries an estimated price tag of $2.62 million.
Complex board members then set about trying to find funding for the project.
They learned in November that the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Outdoor Recreation Grants Program had rejected an application for a matching grant of up to $250,000.
The board took another blow Jan. 15 during a presentation for a funding request before the El Dorado Works Board, which administers the city’s economic development tax of the same name.
EWB members did not act on the funding request and asked complex board members to return with a more detailed plan that would include projections for an increase in expenditures due to expanded facilities and use, how the facility would bring in additional revenue and economic sustainability.
City and county officials — the city owns the land for the complex, which was built in 1985, and the city and county contribute to the facility’s annual operating budget — have noted that while the complex may not become self-sufficient, they asked complex board members to find ways to close the gap between revenues and expenditures.
In 2018, the complex budget was $220,000 and for the previous three years, the facility brought in $12,000 — $14,000 in revenue.
Complex board members returned Jan. 24 with the information that the EWB requested, and the EWB subsequently approved $2.6 million in funds.
The city council signed off on the funding request later the same day.
On Feb. 1, the complex board met to line out its next steps, with a goal of completing phase one within the next year.
“The first thing I feel like we need to do is go out for RFQs, requests for qualifications,” said Greg Harrison, complex board chairman and member of the Union County Quorum Court.
Harrison suggested that the board allow Robert Edmonds, El Dorado director of public works, to spearhead the RFQ process.
“That way, if issues come up down the road, he’ll know what’s involved with the entire process,” Harrison said.
Dianne Hammond, board vice-chair and an El Dorado City Council member, said Edmonds, who was unable to attend the meeting Feb. 1, had already agreed to take on the task.
Hammond suggested that the RFQ period remain open for two weeks.
She said the board can then sift through submissions, pick three top candidates for a contractor/engineering/design firm and select a firm from the three candidates.
Harrison said advertisements for RFQs will be spread out in the Ark-La-Tex region.
“This is a major project. The city owns the property out there, and we want to make sure we do it right,” Harrison said.
“With the city council and (El Dorado Works Board) approving this money so early in the year, it gives us time to make the right decision and it gives the company ample time to get the project completed in the first quarter of 2020,” he continued.
Harrison explained that the work in phase one will also include new fencing, turf fields, LED lights, poles, protective netting and a new batting cage for the four fields on the north end of the complex; renovation of the concession stand and restrooms in that area; and improvements for security and entry controls for the facility.
The group heard from Charles Dawson, chief executive officer of Geo-Surfaces, a Baton Rougebased contracting/design firm that specializes in lighting and surfacing for athletic facilities.
Dawson, an Arkansas native who graduated from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, said Geo has completed numerous projects in Arkansas, including several for colleges, universities and high schools around the state and north Louisiana.
Harrison said Geo assisted the board in its follow-up presentation to the El Dorado Works Board.
Dawson provided samples of different types of field surfaces and talked to the board about which turf works best for a particular sport, including baseball and fast and slow-pitch softball.
Scott McMurry — athletic director of the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, the manager of the complex — said
phase one would have to be completed by the first weekend of March 2020, just ahead of a large youth baseball tournament that has already been scheduled.
Complex board member Stacy Scroggins asked Dawson if the project could “realistically” be completed by then.
“Horizontally, yes,” Dawson said.
He said board members would have to go through the process of selecting a contractor and the design and construction phases.
The first of May would be the ideal time to begin construction, Dawson told board members, saying that the weather during fall/winter months is not typically conducive to construction work.
Following the completion of phase one, Harrison said the board can then consider other wish-list items in the master plan, including a college-style baseball field; renovation of the RV site; a splash pad; and expansion and repaving of the parking lot — all for an estimated $4.5 million.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or email@example.com.