Posted on March 4, 2019
Board also eyeing temporary fix for lighting in the parking lot
By Tia Lyons
An ongoing effort to implement a master plan for the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex has entered into the design phase, and complex board members are adding another component to address another issue that has long drawn complaints at the Champagnolle Road facility.
During a monthly board meeting Friday, Greg Harrison, board president and a member of the Union County Quorum Court, said the use of a civil engineering firm that is contracted with the city will help to jumpstart the first phase of a major improvement and expansion project.
The work will entail 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 have also been incorporated into phase one of the master plan.
Other improvements 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.
In January, the El Dorado City Council and El Dorado Works Board approved $2.6 million of the city’s one-cent, economic development sales tax to cover the project.
The complex board subsequently met to come up with a game plan for the project, which is being launched five years after the master plan was initially drafted and a year after it was tweaked.
Board members have said they are shooting for completion by the first quarter next year, just in time for a large youth tournament that has already been scheduled for the first weekend of March 2020.
Last month, they sketched out a rough timeline that included sending out requests for qualifications to select a engineering/design firm, the design phase, sending out bids and the construction phase.
On Friday, Harrison said the board has saved itself 30 days of searching for an engineering/design firm by using A.L. Franks Engineering, which has a contract with the city for consultation services.
Harrison said he had discussed the matter with Robert Edmonds, El Dorado director of public works.
“It’s city property so we can use them,” Harrison said.
The city owns the land on which the complex sits and partners with Union County to contribute to the annual budget of the facility.
Board members previously agreed that May would be the ideal time to begin construction.
Harrison said Friday that he hopes construction can begin no later than June, noting that some components of the project could take up to six months to complete.
“The sooner we start, the more chance we give ourselves to get this done. But we can’t predict the weather,” Harrison said, adding that summer 2018 was “particularly rainy” and the area has also experienced wet fall and winter seasons.
He also said the complex board will work with the baseball and softball leagues who play at the complex to coordinate schedules in order to minimize disruption of games and practice during construction.
Chris Nale, who represented one of the leagues, expressed concern that construction may pose a problem for play at the complex this year.
“We don’t want it to kill our league,” Nale said, adding that more teams signed up to play last year.
“We want to keep building,” he told board members.
“Once we have a specific plan, you’ll have a specific timeframe,” said Dianne Hammond, vice chairman of the complex board and a member of the El Dorado City Council.
Harrison also cleared up questions regarding the scope of work that is planned for phase one, saying that several people have inquired about lighting for the parking lot after dark.
He said the lighting is part of phase two of the master improvement plan.
However, board member Keith Smith suggested that the board contact Entergy about installing Nightwatcher-style lights on existing utility poles.
“They’re not that expensive and they can turn them toward the parking lot,” Smith said.
Smith and board member Cynthia Bolding noted that Smith proposed the idea years ago but no action was taken then.
A variety of complaints have been made about the parking lot over the years, including no lighting after dark, a lack of adequate parking, poor condition of the parking lot surface and traffic congestion due to a single entrance into the complex.
Harrison previously said that when a rainout occurred last fall, Scott McMurry — athletic director for the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, who manages the complex — waited to turn off the lights on the fields to allow people time to make it to their vehicles before dark.
“The problem was, people didn’t leave until he turned off the lights. Luckily, there was enough daylight left for them to make it to their cars, but everyone left at the same time and by then it was congested,” Harrison said.
McMurry and David Lee, executive director of the BGCE, said they would contact Entergy about the Nightwatcher lights.
Other parking lot improvements, including resurfacing and expansion, are part of phase two.
The board has also discussed options of building another entrance into the facility.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.