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Master plan for central rec complex almost done
Final plan could be ready for commissioners next week
rec master plan
CHA Sports' proposal No. 3 is the one currently undergoing tweaking.

Effingham County officials are putting the final tweaks on a proposed massive recreation complex for the center of the county.

Commissioners held a workshop last Tuesday with CHA Sports, the firm hired to develop a master plan for the proposed rec complex, to go over what the company’s suggested layouts.

“We’re doing a little tweaking,” said county commission Chairman Wendall Kessler said. “I think we can have a groundbreaking and get cranking within the next 60 days. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

County Administrator Toss Allen said CHA Sports will revise the master plan and could have it in the county’s hands as early as Friday for a presentation to the commissioners Sept. 1.

“I think we’re there,” Allen said. “We’ve got very minor changes. What we’re doing is just the master plan. The schematic plan will come after that and then we’ll get full design.

“We’re still not ready for formal full construction just yet,” Allen added. “But we are marching forward toward that and we have no intention of stopping.”

The concept under consideration now includes 10 baseball/softball fields, four soccer/football fields and a gymnasium. Effingham officials and CHA Sports will work on how best to orient the fields and buildings and finalize traffic flow into and around the property.

“It’s going to be a great complex,” said Effingham Recreation and Parks director Clarence Morgan.

The gym will be toward the front of the property, and Morgan also pushed to have it include two courts.

Commissioners bought nearly 120 acres between Highway 21 and Ralph Rahn Road in separate transactions, with an eye toward building a large, central recreation complex.

At Allen’s recommendation, a pond planned for the northern side of the park will be moved south, where the natural slope of the land may make it easier to put in the pond, Morgan added.

Morgan said the groundbreaking for the complex could be held in conjunction with the ECRP’s upcoming 40th anniversary.

“It’s the miracle on 21,” he said of the planned park.

CHA Sports initially asked to complete a 15-year master plan for the county’s recreation facilities and needs, before the county went ahead with the idea for a new central complex.

In its first concept, the first phase of the central complex, with five baseball/softball fields, a two-court gymnasium and parking, was pegged at $6.3 million. The county identified $5.8 million in its short-term work program for a central complex. Short-term work program projects are funded through the special purpose local option sales tax.

Cost estimates will be provided when the master plan is done, according to Allen. The estimates are usually high, he said, and the county will be looking for additional cost savings.

“We’re trying to close that gap,” he said.