GAINESVILLE – It’s always good to have a “Plan B” in case “Plan A” doesn’t work as expected.
At the Thursday morning work session of the Gainesville City Council, council members heard from City Manager Bryan Lackey about just such an adjustment being needed for the city’s new youth athletic complex, funded by SPLOST VII revenues and planned for a site across the road from Allen Creek Soccer Complex.
Lackey said that shortly after architectural designs for the new complex were approved, “Our designers came back to us and said, ‘Folks, we’re getting some shallow rock out there, and in order to…flatten out that area…the rock estimates are going to be about $2-million.’”
“Well, that’s a third of the budget,” Lackey said grimly.
“So we started thinking, why don’t we maybe start to evaluate another site where we’re not going to have to pay so much in rock removal or site development costs,” Lackey continued.
Lackey said he also felt the Allen Creek location would not be the best place to promote the city and attract visitors to the downtown area. “People coming in to town for soccer tournaments there, they come in and leave; they’re not really seeing Gainesville.”
“So when we started looking at a map, we saw that there’s a big piece of land out on the east side of Gainesville, already in the city, we don’t have to annex it…it’s 1500-acres.”
The parcel is just east of I-985 and just south of Old Cornelia Highway, behind White Sulphur Elementary School.
Lackey added, “While we don’t need 1500-acres, it’s been sitting there a while, it’s dormant, why don’t we go approach that property owner and see if they’re willing to carve off a little bit of that for us.”
Lackey said that working out the details with the property owner for such a transaction was more complicated than expected, but eventually all sides reached an agreement. He said once the property owners realized that the youth sports complex would make the rest of the acreage more marketable and valuable, terms for selling a small portion of the property to the city were quickly agreed upon.
“It’s roughly 88.9-acres. The price comes to almost $778,000,” Lackey said. He added that with approval Tuesday evening from the Gainesville City Council, closing on the property would likely take place in January, 2020.
Lackey told council members that plans to name the complex in honor of recently retired longtime Parks and Recreation Director Melvin Cooper would not change.
Cooper’s successor, Kate Mattison, explained that adjustments to the original $6.75-million budget for constructing the complex would need to be worked out. “We have already done some work out at the property adjacent to Allen Creek, so that takes away a little bit of money…and the (purchase) of the new property comes out of that as well…and there will be some work we have to do over again: a survey and the geo-tech coring, and we might have to reconfigure the layout based upon the topography out there.”
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan called the decision to relocate the park a good idea that will benefit the entire community. “It’s going to be a great amenity for our city …it’s been a long time coming…and I hear they’ve already got somebody who might be interested in the rest of that property.”