Sports and Rec complex becoming reality

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By Carolyn Roy carolyn@natchitochestimes.com In keeping with the French heritage of the region, the new sports and recreation park the City will build will be named Parc Natchitoches. During a meeting Monday evening before the City Council meeting, Kendal Perkins presented sketches and details of the 100-acre complex that will be adjacent to the NSU Hills golf course, with an entrance at 4515 University Parkway across the highway from Fountain of Life Church. Mayor Lee Posey said the City must submit the final name to the design group in two weeks. He will seek public input on the name and will select the final name Jan. 22. Perkins, Architect, AIA MBA, Apex Architectural Services LLC, is not the architect but is the City’s liaison with the lead firm of WHLC of Baton Rouge. He said that “everyone from 5 days old to 95 years old” will find things to enjoy about this new park. The design has three zones. The first will be at the western and southern area and will have a large green space, two ponds, biking and hiking trails. The second will be a five-plex in a pinwheel design for ballparks.

The parks have 315-feet fences, infield artificial turf and multiple markings making the fields suitable for all age levels up through high school for baseball and softball. The centerpiece will be a pavilion with restrooms, concessions and a large overhang. The third, on the east side, will have four grass regulation soccer fields with a smaller pavilion. The complex will have six batting cages plus a featured champion field with a 15-foot sloping terrace. Each field will have bleachers but also open areas where spectators can put chairs and blankets. The structures will have a “Creole vernacular” similar to that at Melrose and Cherokee plantations. Perkins said the structures will be identifiable as being in Natchitoches. The perimeter will not be fenced but some areas near the ponds might. There will be 700 parking spaces on an asphalt surface. Northwestern State is a partner since 75 of the 100 acres is owned by NSU. The City and NSU property are not contiguous but the City is attempting to buy the 200-300 yards that separates them. NSU will have access to the park from 2-5 p.m. for intramurals and other activities and certain other times. The City ball and soccer programs will have access at 5:30 p.m. Most of the tournaments will be played on the weekends. Construction should begin this summer and the park scheduled to open in the summer of 2019. Posey said the complex will be more than “baseball and soccer fields” and will have six concrete trails, nature trails and stocked ponds. The bike paths will be beginner courses but the City is looking at other places to build bike trails. He said the design team had visited several parks in the state to find their best features. The park was designed by a team of the firms WHLC Architecture, Fenstermaker & Associates and LAND Architecture. The City has applied to the La. Bond Commission for $12.5million in bonds to be paid back over 12-15 years with $3.5 million interest at a total cost of $16, 036,858. The City will pay the bonds with a 1-cent sales tax that was rededicated in 2016. Perkins said the City had three objectives in mind with the construction of the park. The first is to improve the quality of life for Natchitoches citizens and NSU students. The second is to make Natchitoches more attractive for prospective businesses, citizens and NSU students. The third is to generate economic activity with sports tournaments that can draw as many as 30 to 40 teams bringing people who stay and spend money here. He termed it as a huge economic development opportunity.

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Questioning Posey was one unidentified person asking about what he considered to be excessive construction costs on the riverfront project. He said he was also concerned about the cost of the park and other needs in the Parish. “This will make Natchitoches a better place. We have the money,” Posey said. He also said he believed the complex would benefit the entire Parish and that the City could not spend money for Parish improvements. Posey said that other cities this size, such as Covington, already and such complexes and this one would make Natchitoches more competitive. He also said the project was bid out. The total cost was determined by the participating architects and engineers submitting their projections for costs.