The tennis/pickleball court project at Berryhill Park will cost more than double the amount originally approved for the works in advertising and promotion tax revenue.
Searcy’s Tourism Advertising and Promotion Commission added an additional $1,197,886 on Tuesday to the $1.1 million it had earmarked for a complete reconstruction of the courthouse. The project includes six full tennis courts (two three-court bays) and eight pickleball courts (two four-court bays).
Engineer Bear Davidson said bids opened for the project on August 9 with seven bidders participating. In his 10 years in business, Davidson said only once has he had more bidders than this for a public project.
The lowest base bid of $2,664,345 for the entire project came from Delk Construction of Searcy. In January, Searcy City Council allocated $366,459 for the project. The $1.1 million A&P Commission was approved in December of last year.
“This commission has done a very good job of banking money for a project like this and we have all said in the period since this [commission] exists that we are looking for an impact project,” said Commission Chairman Chris Howell. “My opinion is this impact project.”
Howell said he thinks it’s important to have funds set aside and defined parameters for those reserves and how much is going to be spent. “That way, we’re rebuilding it.”
He said the project would be paid over time instead of a one-time payment. Davidson said the contract term is 12 months.
“Every month on the 25th, the contractor would submit a request for payment through our company which we would review and then submit to the city and ask the city to issue payments for that month’s work,” said Davidson, adding that typically the first couple of months would be bigger payments for big-ticket items like “earthworks” and “concrete paving.” As the project progresses, Davidson said, the payouts wouldn’t be as large.
He said, for example, that the first two months compensation requests could be $450,000 and then reduced to around $175,000 for the duration of the project. It’s just a projection based on past projects, Davidson said.
Davidson said while the earthworks and paving could be done before December-January, work could continue during those months on other items such as fencing and interior work on the building. He said it might not take the full 12 months if work is started quickly and “heavy construction items” are out of the way.
If there is a bit of a delay in starting earthworks and concrete due to wet weather, Davidson said he would expect the project to take the full 12 months. He mentioned that if all this was done, the project would be finished in July.
Commissioner Tommy Centola asked how the project would affect the festival of lights and the features of the event which is due to take place at Berryhill Park.
“In the short term, it will be a bit of a hindrance this winter,” Davidson said. “I guess the biggest impact will be the northwest parking lot, which is this little triangular parking lot off Moore [Avenue] in the corner of the old swimming pool. This would be prohibited for Holiday of Lights. This would be the main entrance to the building.
He said the location of one of the Holiday of Lights exhibits near the green-roofed pavilion “should also be moved temporarily”.
In the long term, Davidson said, the project is good for Holiday of Lights because when demolition began on the existing tennis courts and Berryhill Park about three months ago, it was learned that around 80% of the lighting for Holiday of The lights were routed through the old electrical panels of the tennis courts. “These panels that used to light the tennis court were also the ones that Holiday of Lights was powered from, and to be honest it wasn’t in great shape.”
Davidson said the project includes new electrical service and panel slots to service the festival of lights. “It’s new underground electricity, so in the long run it’s a bonus for Holiday of Lights, but it’s a bit of a hindrance for this year’s event.”
In addition to underground electricity, the project includes a new toilet building which will have a small concession room. Davidson said the concession hall had no equipment, but for tennis and pickleball it would be used to sell water and candy bars for a tournament. It would also be possible to use it in the future for the Festival of Lights to sell items like hot chocolate.
Davidson said all courts will have black vinyl covered fencing and LED lighting. There will also be a concrete pavilion with picnic tables and garbage cans, providing a nice gathering area for tournaments or even for a family having a birthday party at the park. New landscaping will also be part of the project.
City Attorney Buck Gibson said there was a huge amount of parking space about 30 feet from the facility that could be accessed across the footbridge at Gin Creek, but he didn’t know. what condition the bridge was in. Howell said there was plenty of parking in the area where the city’s old swimming pool was. He said he could be rehabilitated at little cost.
Howell also said that when news of the project first appeared in The Daily Citizen, he started getting phone calls, including one from a guy in New York from a place that specifically designs security systems. for this type of installations with options available to limit access. He said he thinks this is something Parks and Recreation needs to look at, as it will be the city’s responsibility to ensure the facility is maintained.
A standing-only crowd attended Tuesday’s A&P meeting, with several pickleball players in attendance. One of them, Chris O’Shields, who was there with his wife, Jenny, told Howell that the pickleball community in Searcy is “very passionate” about their sport. “We are here to offer any help and assistance to the city to bring this project to life, to sustain it and to make it thrive in our community.”
Jenny O’Shields added that “the pickleball community is very supportive, not just in Searcy but around, and we hear people from Heber Springs, Benton or Batesville all the time saying, ‘Hey, how are you? ‘all the courts are coming? We are ready to come and play.
“We have the support of the entire state of Arkansas,” O’Shields said. “We have a lot of supporters – David and Kay Redding, and David is the [Harding University] tennis coach, very involved in pickleball. Both Kay and David host a tournament twice a year.
Kay Redding said they were asked to help with Memorial Day weekend tournaments in Fairfield Bay to kick off the city’s summer activities and close out with a Labor Day weekend.
“It’s a very low cost,” she said. “These tournaments only last one day. It’s more about the fun and community of pickleball. They provide lunch and we have 100 people coming this Saturday for this tournament which took about three weeks to organise.
Kay Redding said pickleball tournaments are in high demand. “Pickleball players love pickleball and they will travel anywhere. We have people coming from all over Arkansas, parts of Tennessee, New Mexico, and Missouri, just to come and play a one-day tournament.
“Most of the tournaments are three-day events, which totally involve hotel rooms, restaurants and the pickleball community here in Searcy – we all play here, but we also travel to other places to play nearby. . I know this pickleball community in Searcy would do anything to hold events here and as much or as little as needed. They could just be local to our citizens. They could be bigger, several hundred.
She said that a tournament with 200 to 300 players can be organized “quite quickly with a very low budget. …Once you have the grounds, it doesn’t take much to run a tournament, but it would bring visitors into our community and turn them into consumers, not only to see our city but also to participate in the services that we offer. ”
“We think it would be very beneficial and not just for this part, but very beneficial for the citizens of Searcy to have tennis courts and pickleball courts available for physical activity,” Redding said. “It’s a great mix of both sports.”
Redding, in the parking lot after the meeting, said that when people were looking for a place to live in retirement, they were no longer looking for the best golf course, but were now looking for where the best pickleball course was.
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