By MARINA WATERS
Questions about the athletic facility complex slated to be built next to the upcoming Boones Creek School could soon be answered.
On Monday, July 23, the Washington County Commission will consider a resolution to enlist CHA Design/Construction Solutions to develop two concept plans for the athletic facility complex on Boones Creek Road. If passed, the study would cost the county $49,800 from the capital projects fund unassigned fund balance.
Johnson City City Manager Pete Peterson sent an email to Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge on May 21 suggesting the county consider the study to be conducted by CHA, a group the city has enlisted for other projects. In that letter he also cited the county as the “approving and funding party” for the complex. Should the county pass the proposal, the design plans from CHA would include the layout, grading and utilities plans and it would show a floor plan for the restroom/concessions/press box building and the maintenance building.
But for Eldridge, the most important areas of the study would include what size athletic facilities could fit on the property and just how much it would cost.
“I think this is a necessary step because the study accomplishes two things; this study will give the county commission an idea of what can realistically be developed there because the original plan that the school board’s architect developed is apparently just not doable,” Eldridge said. “And it’s going to give the county commission a a good estimation of what it’s actually going to cost.”
The commission has $3 million earmarked for the athletic facilities complex, which was the amount estimated by the school system’s architect, Eldridge said. But the dollar amount isn’t what the city cited as their main hold up.
During the last meeting held by the athletic facilities task force, which is comprised of city and county officials, city officials said their planning and design firm indicated that the complex wouldn’t fill Johnson City’s need for four 300-foot baseball and softball fields. However, the group mentioned potentially having a study done in the future.
As far as the details of which entity would be responsible for which aspect of the complex goes, that is yet to be decided. Eldridge said those decisions would be the next steps, should the study be conducted.
“Johnson City has put together a list of questions pertaining to everything from the cost of operations and who pays for what to scheduling. It was several pages of questions,” Eldridge said. “And I think that determining the feasibility of the project is the first step and then working out those operational questions will be a natural next phase of developing an agreement.”
“What I’m hoping is, if this is going to be a project that the county commission chooses to go forward with, I really hope they go forward and partner with Johnson City.”
Eldridge also said a partnership with the city could dramatically reduce the county’s capital investment in the project. He also cited the city’s experience and staffing ability in running successful facilities such as the sports complex as an asset to the project.
Washington County Board of Education member Clarence Mabe, who is also the athletic facilities task force co-chairman, said he felt the potential partnership offers success for both parties as compared to any other athletic facilities either entity could plan and construct.
“If we do it (without the city), it’s going to be average at best, like what we have at Ridgeview and Grandview,” Mabe said. “If the city does one, they can do average at best, like Ridgeview and Grandview and their facility up there at Winged Deer Park. But if we do it together, it’s a win-win. They will come in and add to what we’re going to put into it and the city could come in and put bigger fields with longer fences so it will be a better fit for them.”
Mabe also mentioned putting an Astroturf field at the complex, which he said could bring in about $5 million taxable dollars a year.
“How does a school system get their money? They get it through tax money and sales tax,” Mabe said. “If we can bring $5 million a year more into the county, the county becomes wealthier and so do our students. And Johnson City can use it during the summertime and we can use it during the school year. Everybody wins.”
But in order for both parties to “win”, Eldridge said it all hinges on two things; what the project will cost and whether or not Johnson City is a partner in the project. Should one or both of those factors not work in the counties favor, Eldridge said financial concerns could put the project on hold.
“We have some very tight funding constraints within the capital projects plan,” Eldridge said. “I’m just speaking hypothetically here — to take this from the $3 million that has been earmarked for this facility to, say, an $8 million project, quite honestly, it doesn’t matter if the county commission wants to do it or not, funding’s just not available for it. That’s why I say it’s really got to be a function of both of those factors being favorable, the cost of it and Johnson City’s willingness to partner on it.”
The county commission will vote on the athletic facilities complex study at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, July 23 at 6 p.m. at the Justice Center, located at 108 W Jackson Blvd. #1210, Jonesborough.