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Rocks cause uncertainty about Gainesville sports complex project
Gainesville Parks and Recreation officials are awaiting a report to determine whether rocky surface at the site of a proposed youth sports complex near the soccer fields off Allen Creek Road will increase the cost of the $6.6 million project. - photo by Carlos Galarza

Plans for a long-awaited $6.6 million sports complex for multiple youth activities in Gainesville have encountered an unexpected hiccup when initial soil tests uncovered more rock than anticipated on a 190-acre site adjacent to the Allen Creek Soccer Complex.

Gainesville Parks and Recreation Director Melvin Cooper said Monday he’s waiting for a report from Lose & Associates Inc., the company contracted to design the complex, to determine how to move forward. He expects to have the report soon.

Cooper said he recommended the site because of its size and because it is owned by the city.

“It’s land we would not have to pay for,” Cooper said.

Cooper declined to make any conjectures over the future of the project.

“I have no idea what the alternatives would be until we look at the report,” he said. “Then we’ll see about a plan B or plan C.”

Parks and Rec Deputy Director Michael Graham recently told The Times that boring and seismic refraction was done at the site to find out how much rock is underneath the surface.

“Lose & Associates are going to determine how that’s going to affect the project from a cost standpoint,” Graham said.

Late last year, Gainesville City Council approved $450,000 to front the cost of design for the sports complex project, which will be paid for with revenue from a special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters in 2015.

Graham said that up-front money to go ahead with design has helped to keep the project on track despite the uncertainty with the rocky site.

“In essence, we’re really a year ahead of schedule,” Graham said. “So, it’s good timing because if we did find a problem with rock, and it’s going to cost us more money, it’ll give us a little more time to plan and figure out what we need to do.”

Construction on the project was targeted to begin in 2019, once the money from SPLOST is collected.

The first phase of the project includes new baseball and softball fields, a concession building and parking lots situated across from the Allen Creek Soccer Complex.

Cooper and Graham admit that even after the youth complex is built, the city will still be lacking in athletic fields. They said the last time the city built athletic fields was in 1984. And the city is below the national standard in terms of athletic fields per population.