Construction underway at mega sports complex

May 29, 2020 chris
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Photo: Workers from Milam Construction lay the foundations for concession stands and bathrooms at the site of the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex in Rainbow City. Photo courtesy of Milam Construction.

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor and Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer/Photographer

After five years and several starts and stops, the state-of-the-art Etowah County Mega Sports Complex is beginning to take shape.

Milam Construction recently cleared a large section of the 139-acre property located off Steele Station Road and Lumley Road in Rainbow City, marking off and installing the foundations for the facility’s concession stands and bathrooms.

The complex’s construction plan is divided into two phases. Phase I began construction in November 2019 to develop soccer fields, parking, restrooms and concessions. Phase II will be geared toward softball and baseball, as well as additional parking, restrooms and concessions. The site was designed by Chambless King Architects of Montgomery.

Local businessman and former state representative Craig Ford, who passed a bill five years ago establishing the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority, was pleased to see the project finally get off the ground in terms of construction. The authority purchased the land debt-free in 2017.

“To see these photos is very exciting,” said Ford. “To see that this progress is moving forward despite the heavy rain in the spring [is wonderful.] I’m looking forward to seeing the children being able to play on the soccer fields and the revenue [the sports complex] will generate for tourism and local municipalities. This is definitely a quality of life issue for our county.”

The chair of the authority since its inception, Ralph Burke noted that funding remains a vital obstacle in a project of this magnitude. When the authority awarded the bid to Milam Construction, the group anticipated a July 1 completion date for Phase I. Following the spring weather that complicated the progress, Milam Construction workers chose of their own accord to work double shifts to make up for lost time. Despite the setbacks, Burke is hopeful that local youths will be playing soccer at the facility in the fall.

“We’re beginning to look at some of the more detailed elements like concession menus and things of that nature,” said Burke. “When you get to that point, you know you’re getting closer.”

Burke anticipates the concession area as the complex’s center point, serving as a welcome center for all who visit the facility. He plans to include large screen TVs and an outdoor seating area capable of serving several people at one time. But apart from the premium lounge areas, Burke has a personal goal for the complex that he is determined to achieve.

“I want the complex concession stand to have a hamburger that is so good that people will come down on the weekends and buy one,” said Burke. “We’ll be big enough to accommodate a soccer tournament. I want people to say, ‘that’s a great sports complex…but have you had one of their hamburgers?’”

Burke foresees the complex serving the Etowah County community for generations to come. Already, the complex is generating great interest on social media, with people up to 60 miles away inquiring about its progress. Like all facilities, the complex will require periodical updates and refurbishment for existing sports, or even redesigning for new purposes. Ensuring that the complex remains moldable and adaptable is an aspect of the authority’s vision: creating a serviceable environment that withstands the tests of time, developing a complex that grows and prospers along with its community members, embracing its needs and promoting a mindset of unity in a place where people gather and thrive.

“We have a great authority,” said Burke. “We have a 12 -member authority that has overseen this whole project. There are some things along the way that I’m proud of personally, but I can’t say it’s my project because it’s something that the community is going to own – it’s going to be for the community. It’s very satisfying [seeing the idea manifest into reality].”