Photo by Kaitlin Fleming: Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority Chair Ralph Burke (left) announces the schedule for construction of the Sports Complex as authority member Craig Ford (right) listens on Thursday, October 11.
After months of planning and preparation, the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority (ECMSCA) is revealing plans for construction to begin. The authority was put in place by the Etowah Legislative Delegation in 2015.
“We’ve talked about it for a long time and now we are ready move forward with construction,” said Authority Chair Ralph Burke. “We are waiting on one piece of engineering to be completed and we should begin by the end of October. The first thing will be tree removal on the interior of the property.”
The complex is planned for property off Ala. Hwy. 77 at what will be an extension of Lindsey Street.
The authority owns 139 acres and will use some adjoining property owned by Rainbow City.
“This has been a dream of mine for a long time,” said State Representative Craig Ford, the sponsor of the legislation setting up the authority. “Early in my legislative career I set up an exploratory committee to look into a sports complex, but the 2015 bill gave powers to the authority and revenue streams.”
“I have heard from the people, and they are ready for this,” said Ford. “I honestly believe we will be playing soccer here by springtime. The better news is the economic boost it will give Etowah County”
The authority’s current revenue is around $480,000 annually from a combination of lodging tax, a portion of the one-cent sales tax and a portion of the TVA in-lieu of tax payments made to the county. The funds began to flow to the authority in late 2015.
“The authority received about three months of the lodging tax and TVA funds in 2015, when the fiscal year started October 1,” said Burke. “The first year we got our full allotment was 2016, again in 2017 and now we’ve received nine months of 2018. We’ve bought 139 acres, paid for some architectural, design and engineering, and we have almost $500,000 in the bank. We’ve been very frugal with the money.”
The plans are for the complex to be constructed in phases with soccer, softball and baseball in phase I.
“These are the sports that you have the most participation in and they produce revenue,” said Ford. “We have ask for public input in the past and we continue to seek what type of recreational opportunities people want.
“I personally would like to see an agriculture/multi-purpose type facility, and Pickle Ball is the fastest growing activity in the country.”
Chambless-King Architects of Montgomery has been retained as the design team for the project.
“We went through an extensive vetting process and we liked what CK did with the downtown Montgomery redevelopment and the Alabama State University football stadium,” said Burke.
Ford said that he is pleased to see the sports complex project come to fruition.
“This project has been in the works for years, and I’m excited about starting construction,” said Ford. “This complex will benefit all the people in Etowah County.”
In addition to Burke and Ford, the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority is made up of Hugh Miller, Heather New, Ali Smith, Jay Hedgspeth, Keith Blackwell, Dr. Tony Catanzaro, Trina Willett, Roger Boatner and Tammy Bean.