ALBANY, NY — In her year as Albany’s city manager, Sharon Subadan has made it clear that part of her agenda is to push long-stalled projects forward.
That alone is reason for optimism among sports enthusiasts in the community.
Subadan confirmed this week that city officials have started looking at a “preliminary conceptual” plan that would bring a long-delayed, multimillion-dollar, SPLOST-funded sports park to the city. And, she said, it’s very likely that such a facility would be built on land the city owns adjacent to the Paul Eames Sports Complex just off the U.S. Highway 19 Bypass in the northeastern part of the county.
“It’s still in the conceptional phase, but, yes, we’re definitely looking at moving this project forward,” Subadan said of building a sports complex that city and Dougherty County voters approved as part of the SPLOST VI referendum in 2010. “And, yes, we’re looking at Paul Eames as a possible site for the complex. It’s easily accessible, and it just makes sense to develop assets that the city already has.”
City officials are talking with their county counterparts about the proposed park to see if there is continued interest in leveraging funding to make the facility an even more all-encompassing one. The city reportedly has some $2.9 million in SPLOST funding earmarked for construction of a sports/recreation complex. The county has some $1.9 million in special tax funds set aside for construction of a tennis complex.
Both projects were approved as part of referenda that set aside portions of the city/county 1 percent tax collections for specific projects.
Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis, during a discussion of the county’s SPLOST proposals for Fiscal Year 2017, mentioned ongoing discussions of the proposed sports park with the city. He told county commissioners they would, if that board and the City Commission agreed, utilize their SPLOST funding to complete the tennis complex that had been on the books for more than a decade.
Subadan acknowledged that those discussions had been fruitful, setting the stage for what could be a significant complex that would tie in with the baseball diamonds at the Paul Eames complex.
“We have to be realistic,” the Albany city manager said. “We don’t have the funding to build a sports park from scratch. But with the facilities already in place (at Paul Eames), our funding and the county’s tennis funding, we would definitely be able to build a nice facility on that land.
“Obviously, cost is going to be one of the crucial factors. We’re starting to develop a plan now, and once we get a plan in place, we’ll start looking at pricing. Then we’ll see how we can maximize the funding that’s available.”
Under then-interim City Manager Tom Berry, interim Downtown Manager Sharlene Cannon authorized through the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority conceptual design for a sports park as part of a redevelopment plan for Albany’s downtown. Consultants recommended tearing down the Albany Civic Center and using the land that was formerly the site of the First Tee golf facility behind the Civic Center to build a state-of-the-art complex.
That plan caused a stir in the community among those who opposed demolition of the Civic Center.
Under Subadan, the city’s Recreation and Parks department, headed by Rec and Parks Director Joel Holmes, has eschewed talk of demo-ing the almost-40-year-old facility, choosing instead to fund events at the arena. Holmes told the City Commission at a recent work session that some 116 events had been held at the Civic Center during FY 2016, attracting some 96,881 attendees.
“We’ve had quite a few people attend events at the Civic Center, much more than most people would think,” Subadan said. “But we have to get more events to make it a viable quality-of-life facility. I think we’ll be able to do that as redevelopment really starts up downtown and people get used to coming to events in the Central Business District again.”
Subadan did not offer specific plans for the proposed sports park, but upgrades of Eames’ baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, walking trails and kids playground equipment have been mentioned by various city officials. The proposed tennis center, Crowdis noted, would include restrooms and some sort of all-purpose building, as well as lighting for a possible 10-court complex.
The city manager, meanwhile, said she plans to escalate talks about the project in the very near future.
“We’re getting a plan ready,” she said. “It hasn’t reached the level where we’ve put it on the commission’s radar, but we will soon. I expect we’ll get this proposal before them for initial discussions as early as July. This is a project I think our citizens would like to see move forward.”
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