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Complex to provide parking for MAD grand opening

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By Tia Lyons

Staff Writer

The El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex is getting into the paid parking business.

Steve Harrell, athletic director for the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado — who manages the complex — reported Friday that the facility is teaming up with the Murphy Arts District to provide parking for visitors who are expected to come to town for the Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 grand opening celebration and for MAD events thereafter.

Harrell told complex board of directors that the arrangement will create a new source of income for the Champagnolle Road facility.

MAD is considering several properties around town to serve as parking and pick-up/drop-off points to ferry visitors to the arts and entertainment district on the south end of Downtown El Dorado.

Phase one of the $100 million MAD project is expected to be ready to open in late September with several days of concerts featuring Smokey Robinson, ZZ Top, Ludacris, Lyle Lovett and others.

Thousands of people have already snapped up tickets, which went on sale last week.

“We’re going to use the complex as a parking lot for MAD

weekends,” Harrell said Friday. “That’s going to bring in more money than tournaments.”

A price that has been discussed is $20 per space, he said, adding that the complex has 200 – 250 parking spots.

Harrell said MAD will provide a bus, and the Boys and Girls Club will likely provide another bus to shuttle visitors back and forth.

Robert Edmonds, El Dorado public works director, inquired about the number of passengers that would fit on a school bus, and Harrell said approximately 44.

“So that parking fee, some will be for the parking spot and some for transportation?” rec board member Stacy Scroggins asked. “What about security?”

Harrell said the complex is working with the El Dorado Police Department to provide security onsite.

He also said the Dumas Pavilion will be closed and not available to rent during weekends that the parking lot is being used for MAD events.

“The parking lot is our priority right now because it’s a new revenue stream,” Harrell said.

Complex board members also discussed efforts to cut down some trees near the ball fields on the south end of the complex to expand parking space.

The effort is part of a master improvement and expansion plan for the complex.

Will Crowder, rec board member and member of the Union County Quorum Court, said he has marked several trees for removal.

He said the cutting would create an additional 60 to 70 parking spaces.

“I’m for removing trees for parking only, not for anything else,” board member Keith Smith said.

Need to expand

In other business, board members continued discussions with Perry Carr, vice president of ETC Engineers and Architects in Little Rock, about ETC services.

Carr, who has previously met with the board, explained that the firm has developed several recreational facilities around the state, including a facility with nine youth fields and a T-ball field in Batesville.

Board member Cynthia Bolding also noted that ETC worked on the walking track in Norphlet and is developing a project for a concession stand and restrooms at the ball field there.

Additionally, ETC has worked on projects for the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex, including the two newest fields on the south end of the facility.

Board member and El Dorado Alderwoman Dianne Hammond asked Carr if ETC writes grants for the projects it develops.

“We do grant-writing. We’ve written grants for some customers,” Carr said. “It depends on whatever level of involvement you want us to take. Ultimately, we’re a design company. We do a lot of ballfields all over the state.”

Board member Greg Harrison inquired about the status of an effort to submit a grant application to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for a grant to complete the fencing on the newest youth fields — 200 feet for a softball field and 225 for a baseball field.

Edmonds said the El Dorado City Council had met the previous night and passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Frank Hash to moved forward with the application.

“You give the project and the amount and present it to them, and they have a pot of money that they divvy up,” Edmonds said.

Board members discussed expansion options, and Harrell and Harrison citing the need for more fields to accommodate different types of sports, such as football and soccer.

“I’ve got lots of diamonds. I need rectangles,” he said, adding that the Boys and Girls Cub is starting an elementary feeder program for El Dorado High School Wildcats Football.

Edmonds said expansion is not feasible to the south or west of the complex because of the contour of the land.

“The ground behind it falls off fast, so you’re kind of landlocked with what you have, unless you go north on Champagnolle,” Edmonds said.

The group also approved a three-year contract with The Diamond Agency to advertise and market the complex, with a plan that includes several types of sponsorship signage.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.

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