City officials spent an hour this afternoon (10.26.17) discussing the dreams of a $16 million Lakeland athletic complex and funds to make the first phase of it happen.
In a special called meeting at City Hall, the BOC (Board of Commissioners) met with David Smith, A2H; Kevin Rooney, director of the Lakeland Parks and Recreation Department (P&R); Nancy Koch, chair of the Parks and Rec Board; and Dr. Ted Horrell, superintendent of the Lakeland School System (LSS). The goal was to evaluate the vision of a park located on 100 acres at the southeast corner of Memphis Arlington and Canada Roads — property the City owns. The meetings are part of the Lakeland Vision 2020 plan and two remain to be scheduled: residential growth and infrastructure and education.
By meeting’s end, Mayor Wyatt Bunker requested a master plan and several options be prepared to present to the BOC in December or earlier if available. “We all want to see movement. We know it’s our spot and it’s time to start moving.”
Jim Atkinson, city manager, said the City has roughly $800,000 in the bank to spend on parks: about $500K in a parkland dedication fund and $300K from the recent sale of a City-owned residential property. A third revenue source would be grant money from LPRF — Local Parks and Recreation Fund under the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Mr. Atkinson explained the City was previously approved for a $250K LPRF grant. But now $500K grants are being awarded to qualified parks programs. Mr. Rooney would need training on grant writing, but said he is willing to learn the process and apply for any available grants.
Mr. Atkinson said the grants require a match but the City can match with land allowing no out-of-pocket expense. He also said the grant money must be used for something specific, like building a concession stand, restrooms or lighting.
Mr. Smith outlined the multi-million dollar project which he noted has had several revisions in recent years. Included would be multi-purpose fields, restrooms, a concession stand, a lake in the middle of the property which would become a centerpiece with a boat dock and splash pad and trails.
Phase one of the dream would cost about $2.5 million and include four fields and parking for 173 vehicles, said Mr. Smith.
Mayor Bunker said he loves the site, it is a great location, trees would be retained, it’s convenient and has a lot of character. “Kudos to the Board (P&R). They were committed to this site before we were.”
Commissioner Matt Wright noted it would tie nicely with IH Park, across Canada Road. He said P&R has seen tremendous growth in the last two years. “We are capping our programs and turning people away,’ he noted. Beyond the “good problem” of having too many people is the problem of available parking, he said.
On the flip side of the coin, said Commissioner Wright, athletic revenue supplements the Parks program and there are dreams for the Parks side of this equation.
Mrs. Koch commented that the P&R Board likes the plan and wishes more of the project could be completed initially. But she said she understands funds only allow for a portion of the project to be initially completed. “I love the idea of the lake and trees,” she said.
Commissioner Wright introduced Dr. Horrell, explaining the Lakeland School Board is researching athletic facilities at Lakeland Middle Preparatory School (LMPS) and are open to a partnership with the City.
Dr. Horrell said they are under contract with Renaissance Group and A2H for construction documents for four fields behind the middle school. He explained there is $3.5 million left from LMPS construction which must go back into the school site. The estimate to complete the fields, he said, is $4.3 million. The City could be asked for the balance of the funds in exchange for using the fields for City use.
Mayor Bunker asked if the project had gone to bid and Dr. Horrell stated it had not.
Mr. Wright said at best, that gives the City two years to use those fields as a City. “We need to get serious about what we need to do from the City standpoint.”
Vice Mayor Josh Roman asked for per item costs within the $16 million to determine a priority list by needs and costs. He noted that initial available funds for phase one could start with the $800K and $500K in grant money for a total of $1.3 million.
In reviewing the grant process, Mr. Smith said a City cannot apply for a new grant until the first project for which a grant was received is complete.
Mr. Smith said he and his firm have applied for many LPRF grants and a master plan for the site is a big factor in getting the money approved. “The state wants to make sure the money they provide is not wasted.” He said the process would involve getting an assessment on the land.
He believes the application time is February and a City cannot apply for a new grant until the first project is complete.
… Photos by Jim Willis, Lakeland Currents.