Photo: Pictured is the construction progress on the concession stand at the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex located off Kinzie Lane in Rainbow City. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Via a Zoom conference of the Gadsden Kiwanis Club’s July 15 meeting, Etowah County Mega Sports Complex Authority Chairman provided an update on the facility’s progress.
Burke noted that among other ongoing construction at the 139-acre property, a concreate foundation has been poured for the concession stand and storage facility.
“It’s just now taking shape,” he said. “I encourage everyone to drive by there and check out the construction. (The City of) Rainbow City built the access road to the complex. They wanted to alleviate the school traffic in the mornings and afternoons from Jones Jones and Rainbow Middle, so it turned out to be a win-win for everybody.”
Burke said that the ECMSCA board had hoped to receive the keys to the complex sometime this summer but that the heavy springs rains delayed the construction at least by several weeks. The project is currently in Phase I, which includes eight soccer fields, concession stand and restrooms.
Burke said that future phases of the project’s master plan may include softball and baseball fields, cross-country trail a pet park and an RV park.
“Even while we’re under construction, we’re getting bids out for soccer tournaments for next year, so the wheels are in motion,” Burke said. “We don’t have any contracts signed yet, but I think we’ll have plenty of activity in that area.”
Burke stressed that there are no immediate plans for an indoor facility in the com-plex. The authority purchased the land debt-free in 2017.
“That’s not to say that there won’t be an indoor facility in the future,” he said. “We’d really like to hear from the public on that. I would point out that there in nothing in the law that created the authority that says we have to put the entire complex at one location. So, we could actually have several locations around Etowah County, One of the things that I’d like to see in the future is an agricultural center, like many counties have.”
Burke mentioned the Northeast Agri-Bu-siness Center in Rainsville and the Blount County-Oneonta Agri-Business Center in Oneonta as examples.
Burke reminded club members that a first-rate concession area is at the top of the list.
“I want us to have the best hamburger in own. I want us to have a burger that is so good that people will come down on the weekends and buy one. We’ll be big enough to accommodate a soccer tournament, and I want people to say, ‘that’s a great sports complex…but have you had one of their hamburgers?’ We want this to be a real community gathering place.”
Burke noted that building and operating the mega sports complex is a quality of life issue for the surrounding communities.
“For me, I’m looking for opportunities to keep our young people in Gadsden, and that when they [finish] college, they’ll want to come back here. Drive over to the sports complex in Oxford at Chocolocco Park and see all the economic development that [complex] has spawned. It’s pretty amazing. (The City of) Albertville has just committed 40 million dollars to a park. Youth sports is a 15-billion dollar a year industry, and I feel that’s something that Etowah County can capitalize on.”