County, city task force looking to narrow down cost of Boones Creek athletic complex

Zach Vance • Updated Nov 21, 2017 at 11:29 PM

Washington County and Johnson City leaders serving on a joint task force are in agreement over the layout of the proposed Boones Creek athletic facility.

But the cost of actually building the facility is still to be determined.

The joint task force met for a third time Tuesday at the Memorial Park Community Center and analyzed a conceptual rendering of the facility with four 300-foot diamond fields and one 225-foot field, a layout that would fulfill most of the city’s needs and all the county’s needs.

“Yes, that (concept) would accomodate our minimum needs for our citizens, as well as being a shot in the arm for weekend tourism with tournament play,” Johnson City Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis said.

Daniel Boone High School Athletic Director Danny Good concurred, saying the facility would meet the needs for all Boones Creek’s athletics.

“It will fit our needs, as well. With this concept, Boones Creek will be the only school we have that will be using this. So with the five fields we’ve seen, Boones Creek softball would be using the small field and baseball would be using one of the larger ones,” Good said.

“That’s the only county need we will have at this particular facility because at Ridgeview, at the north complex, Gray and Ridgeview use that facility. I think it’s a win, win for both the city and county residents and the taxpayers.”

The task force is still torn on whether the facility should be fitted with regular grass or the much more expensive artificial turf.

The artificial turf would likely allow for at least one, possibly two multi-use fields doubling as rectangular fields, which is another need for the city.

At last week’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting, Athletic Manager David Carmichael said the city needs at least four to six each of rectangular fields and diamond fields to accomodate all recreation athletics, church leagues, high school practices and weekend tournaments.

City Commissioner Todd Fowler, who co-chairs the task force, said even if the fields are all grass, there might still be a way to make one of the diamonds double as a rectangular field when needed.

City Manager Pete Peterson estimated the cost of artificial turf per field to be around $1 million. He also mentioned it might take 25 years to recoup a return on investment for an artificial field, and it would need replacing after just 12 years.

Regardless, those figures didn’t seem to deter some on the board.

Task force member Tim Copenhaver, who’s traveled all around the Southeast for Little League tournaments, said artificial turf really does make a field more appealing to play on. He also mentioned teams paying more than $1,000 to compete in tournaments that include two games played on artificial turf and the remainder on grass.    

Instead of relying on rough estimates, the task force asked Peterson to look at possibly hiring an architect to determine the actual cost of the athletic complex, including the difference between installing artificial turf versus grass.

When the city hired Lose & Associates to complete a concept design for an athletic complex beside Winged Deer Park, Ellis said it ran about $11,000.

Neither Washington County or Johnson City have allocated money toward the project, but county officials have discussed investing $8 million, regardless of whether the city partners with them or not.

“Us being able to share the cost, we’d be able to get a better product,” Clarence Mabe, co-chair of the task force said. “You’re going to get a better product with less money (doing a partnership) and it will be more useful.”

The task force is hoping to have some solid numbers on the proposal by its next meeting, on Dec. 13.

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