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When work could begin on the new, multimillion-dollar youth sports complex in Gainesville
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Melvin Cooper speaks during an interview at the Gainesville Civic Center on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Cooper retired after 47 years working for the city and 30 years as parks director. - photo by Austin Steele

Construction is set to begin in mid-2021 on a multimillion-dollar youth sports complex that should open its doors in Gainesville about 18 months after that, according to Gainesville parks officials. 

Kate Mattison, director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation, said the 89-acre J. Melvin Cooper Youth Sports Complex at 2490 Old Cornelia Highway will bring needed athletic space to the city. 

The complex will be named after Melvin Cooper, Gainesville’s longtime parks director, who spent 47 years with the city and retired last year.  

“It’s been a long time in the making,” Mattison said. “There is absolutely a need in this area. No. 1, just for our events, just for parks and recreation to be able to host and hold all of the tournaments and leagues and do our own programming, we need more space, but it’s more than that. We get calls all the time from independent groups who want to come and rent.” 

Mattison said tournaments hosted at Lanier Point Park sometimes need to hold games at City Park, due to a lack of field space. 

“We’re really excited about the prospect of having another five-field facility and especially in that location,” she said. “It’s in such a great spot, to have easy access to the highway, there’s fast food restaurants, the big Kroger there. It’s in a really good spot for accessibility.” 

The city purchased the property, which is just inside city limits, for $777,875 from two separate Louisiana public pension funds. 

Mattison said the project is currently in the design phase and is expected to go out to bid for construction in spring 2021. She said plans include five 300-foot baseball fields and possibly a multi-purpose rectangle field. 

The budget for the project has not been finalized yet, and the city will know more when the design is complete, Mattison said.  

Though $6.75 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funding has been set aside from SPLOST VII, additional money could also be used from SPLOST VIII, which was approved by voters last year.  

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