A long-anticipated tournament park in Northeast Richland may be pared back for strictly soccer, leaving off – for now, at least – planned walking trails, park benches and baseball diamonds.
That would mean the park at Hard Scrabble and Farrow roads would be redesigned, retaining the 18 soccer fields that tournament planners have told county officials are required for successful tournaments.
The scaled-back approach would allow the county to spend the $21 million it has in hand, not the $36.6 million project manager M.B. Kahn Construction Co. estimated the 206-acre project would cost.
At an hour-long work session Wednesday, some said they would want to add baseball later.
But not everyone agreed it’s a good idea to scale back in the first place.
“It’s not going to be the same park that we started out with,” said Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who went on to say that “anything less” than the firm’s original proposal “ain’t worth it.”
M.B. Kahn’s initial layout offered five baseball/softball fields, plus a training field and press box. Walking trails and park benches, along with “pet waste stations,” were cut from the proposal, too, after some on the council balked at the $36 million-plus estimate.
The $14.6 million in savings would come not only from leaving off features, but concentrating the soccer fields in the middle of the property to skirt 4.75 acres of wetlands, said Robbie Brax, M.B. Kahn’s director of pre-construction services.
Still, Brax and Bill Cram, the company’s executive vice president, said the county would be looking at a good project.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a piece of property with a better location,” Cram said.
He said the project could be done in two years, opening in spring 2014.
Councilman Damon Jeter brought up two other issues that he said must be addressed soon: Who’s going to manage the park, and how much it will cost to operate. Cram is to return in about a month with an operating budget.
The county’s park system is run by a special purpose district that is appointed by local legislators.
The Northeast Richland property, purchased in 2006 with money collected from tourists, is the first park the council has initiated. Just recently, the council agreed to buy a second piece of property, 44 acres on a pond along Garners Ferry Road.
Dickerson and two other members who represent the northeast area, Val Hutchinson and Gwendolyn Davis Kennedy, make up an ad hoc council committee that has been meeting with the construction management team in recent months.
Kennedy said the full package could get done – eventually. “If we look at a phase-it-in project, we can get everything we want in time,” she said.
Hutchinson said $21 million is a “reasonable” amount for a quality park.
“Whatever we do, we need to do it extremely well,” she added. “There’s no point in building a mediocre park.”