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Gainesville eyes youth sports complex

POSTED: May 1, 2014 11:54 p.m.

Gainesville officials are pinning their hopes for building a youth athletic complex on Hall County voters approving a new round of special purpose local option sales taxes this fall. 

“It’s a huge need,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “They can’t play here because we don’t have the facilities.” 

The proposed sports complex would include six baseball/softball fields, a multipurpose football field, tennis courts, playgrounds and trails, plus concessions, restrooms and parking.

The identified location is the intersection of Monroe Drive and Allen Creek Road on a 368-acre city-owned property in council Ward 3. 

“It’s really, really needed in this part of town,” Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said. 

Proponents argue that the complex is needed to meet growing demand and population increases, adding it will have huge economic benefits for the city. 

“Conceptually, I like the idea,” Councilman George Wangemann said. 

Participation in city youth sports leagues is up to about 1,050 from 544 in 1990, with baseball alone increasing 138 percent over the last five years, according to parks and recreation officials. 

The parks department maintains nine baseball, softball and T-ball fields. But no new field has been built in 30 years in Gainesville, resulting in a shortage that often forces youth teams to play and practice well into the night, parks officials said. 

As a result, the parks department has partnered with local schools to use their fields. But even that is not enough to satisfy the demand as participation increases and newer sports, such as lacrosse, become more popular, parks officials said. 

Additionally, parks officials said the complex would be able to host regional youth sports tournaments, which can have significant economic impacts on the city. 

As local government officials proceed with a vote on a SPLOST VII on Nov. 4, two public hearings will held this summer to gather input and ideas from county residents. City officials are likely to make the case that the sports complex should be included in the capital projects list. 

City officials told The Times that the complex could cost between $12 million and $14 million to construct. And while other funding sources might be available to cover some expenses, it is clear SPLOST revenue is needed to advance the project. 

Moreover, Councilman Sam Couvillon, who supports the proposal, said that financing the project might require the complex to be constructed in phases. 

“I do think that it’s very important that we stay ahead of the curve,” he said.


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