By BRADEN LAMMERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — Before a plan was presented to the rest of the city’s residents, the Jeffersonville Parks Authority hosted a public hearing for the neighbors of a planned expansion of the Clark County Soccer Association complex.
The parks authority has been working on a plan to construct a $5 million multisport complex at 4200 Charlestown Pike — watch a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ERHX6dYOCA . Design plans presented by architecture firm Kovert Hawkins includes six full-size soccer fields — two of which are interchangeable as football fields (one is an artificial-turf field with bleachers and lights) — and an indoor, multi-sport complex.
The parks authority invited members of the Creekstone Ridge and Nicole Station subdivisions to take a first look at the proposed plan.
“We wanted to have the first meeting with you,” said James Lake, architect with Kovert Hawkins. “It affects you the most.”
Councilman and Parks Authority Board Member Ed Zastawny added that the type of meeting held Monday never occurred when the city moved forward on Vissing Park, which created some resistance and controversy among the park’s neighbors.
And the concerns that the neighbors of the proposed sports complex had were immediately apparent.
“I’m very nervous about the traffic,” said Veronica Wernert, a Creekstone Ridge resident.
Wernert was not alone. When the crowd of about 30 residents was asked if they were concerned about traffic, the vast majority raised their hands.
Lake addressed the concerns by saying that phase one of the proposed project would make road improvements to the plan and the parking lot.
The road improvements planned include adding 100-foot turn lanes on Charlestown Pike in both directions into the complex and adding a left turn lane off of Charlestown Pike into Creekstone Ridge.
On the complex property, a 352-space parking lot is planned with a secondary exit-only lane heading out of the complex.
In addition, plans are to move the main entrance to the park to line up with Silver Slate Drive and flatten out a rise in the road to improve sightlines.
The cost to make the road improvements are all planned to fall within the cost of the project and widening will occur on the complex side of Charlestown Pike, Lake said. He added that the goal is to have bids out in the spring and be able to begin the road and parking lot construction this summer. Construction would halt for the fall soccer season, then construction would begin in earnest after the season was finished. The hope ultimately is that the construction would then be completed before the following fall soccer season starting Aug. 1, 2014.
But Wenert, whose house lines up with the newly planned entrance, was upset about the lights from the cars that will be shining in her windows as cars pull out of the complex at night. Lake and other planners said the current entrance is improperly located and said any development at the site would require a relocation of the entrance. He added that he would look into potential improvements that could be made to lessen Wenert’s concerns.
Other worries that were offered by neighbors included drainage issues that already exist in the area and safety concerns of having a public park in their back yards.
“I feel comfortable in my neighborhood today,” said Nancy Montgomery. “I’m wondering will I feel comfortable in my neighborhood after all of this takes place?”
When security concerns for the site were proffered, Councilman Matt Owen explained a similar security system to what was approved for Vissing Park would be installed on-site.
And the development on the site is actually expected to improve drainage, planners said. In addition to installing a new retention basin, layers of topsoil would be added to the site to slow water runoff. As it was explained at the meeting the topsoil had previously been stripped for the ramps on Interstate 265 and the hard surface that remained at the soccer complex absorbs very little water.
GROWTH WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT
Planners said that the option to construct a sports complex, and whether it succeeds or not, will not stop growth off Charlestown Pike.
The neighborhoods and the proposed expanded CCSA site are just to the north of I-265 where the newly planned east-end bridge will connect Kentucky and Indiana.
“When we talk about the opportunity for this site, beyond CCSA, the reality is....it’s not going to be a park,” Lake said. “It’s most likely going to be industrial. That’s just the reality of the development. If you look at what’s all around it...the opportunity [is] for this to become an industrial park or a few more industrial sites.”
Greg Lander, Jeffersonville resident who co-developed Creek Stone Ridge, echoed the point.
“This is the only potential growth area for Jeffersonville and this area is going to continue to grow no matter what,” he said. “This is the best option for that site. The only thing it would be suited for is commercial. Who wants to have commercial when they can have this?”
In addition to the growth in the city, the soccer programs are growing in Jeffersonville and need the expansion space.
Paul Duckworth, president of CCSA, said the recreational soccer program added a field last year and they are out of room already. Since he took over as the CCSA president in 2011, he said the spring leagues have expanded from 220 kids to 350 and from 190 in the fall to 250.
“We’re growing and we keep expecting to grow,” he said.
And instead of the city launching its own program, it allows Jeffersonville to build onto the CCSA’s existing soccer leagues.
“The other side of it is the city’s parks and recreation has been looking to grow a youth soccer program in the city,” Lake said. “Instead of starting from scratch and competing with a group like CCSA, this partnership allows CCSA to really focus on programs...and allow the city to focus on the facility.”
Parks Department Director Paul Northam said the city would run the multi-use indoor activities center planned for the site.
He added it would likely take two full-time employees to run the building and a CCSA employee will run the concessions initially. Fees for the multi-sport complex would mirror those at Nolan Fieldhouse, and closing times would be similar to other parks complexes in Jeffersonville.
But planners said the building itself would be unique.
“What makes this building kind of exciting is there is not really a building like this anywhere else in this region,” said Matt Gullo, architect with Kovert Hawkins.
He explained the interchangeability of the sports complex building allows the facility to attract a number of different types of activities that will allow it to be more financially feasible than a complex that is specifically designed to host one single sport. In addition, the complex being adjacent to the soccer and football fields allows it to serve as a support to the outdoor activities planned for the site.
To answer funding concerns Zastawny said the plan being pursued would be to use the money received for a bond anticipation note received for Vissing Park, of $5 million for five years, to pay for the construction of the complex. The city would then pay the loan back through Economic Development Income Tax and parks open space funding. If there is still a balance at the end of five years, the city could then issue the bond to pay the remaining amount.