BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer
The State Bond Commission has agreed without any opposition to a $4.75 million funding request by the Opelousas Downtown Development District in order to begin the Phase 1 South City Park redevelopment of Donald Gardner Stadium.
ODD executive director Lena Charles said on Friday that the decision by the Commission represents a “significant milestone” in the ability to move forward with a project that places a turf football field playing surface and an eight-lane track at the stadium.
“This step puts us on our way. This (project) is not something that is happening by accident. I think this shows that we have also been sound decision makers and we will be able to get the job done,” Charles added during the meeting.
The decision by the Bond Commission also represents approval of the ability of the ODD to handle the fiscal responsibility of pursuing the stadium project that the ODD feels is scheduled to start sometime within the next few months, said Charles.
“They (Bond Commission) look at who we are financially and this approval is a big accomplishment,” Charles said.
During the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at banks (for bonding the money).
“We plan to work with our local banks, but there are other banks that are available,” said Charles.
The ODD on Friday was informed by Jason Boudrie, CEO and founder of the Synergy Sports Foundation, that there are currently several design issues associated with Phase 1.
Boudrie, whose company is performing a feasibility study of the stadium project, suggested that the original architectural design does not include an area for throwing events associated with track meets or room for the steeplechase running event.
“This severely limits the caliber of the events. We are going to send this to our track designer in an attempt to redraw the track,” Boudrie told ODD members via a Zoom conference.
Boudrie added that the suggested modifications for the track design should not cause any significant Phase 1 delays.
“I think the best option is to change the size of the track and the throwing area. We have been told (by the city) that there are other parks available (for throw events),” Boudrie added.
Boudrie said Synergy has already contacted AAU Track officials about the possibility of hosting three of six meets annually.
Total Project Funding
On Wednesday night the Parish Council approved a cooperative endeavor agreement that involves the City of Opelousas, parish government and the ODD.
According to the CEA agreement among all three funding parties, the initial construction and improvements costs on the city park property will not be less than the $5.5 million minimum value.
The CEA also contains a breakdown of the Phase 1 funding partners that include $500,000 of city revenues, another $500,000 from American Rescue Act funding from the parish, $1 million from state capital outlay funding and the authorized bonding for $4.754 million from the ODD.
One stipulation in the Phase 1 agreement is $500,000 of parish revenues are dedicated only for construction.
In order for Phase 1 to become effective,the CEA indicates, the city needs to prepare procedures and specifications contained in an approved master plan and a timely budget for construction and redevelopment of the park.
The CEA also requires the city to provide a maintenance plan, obtain the necessary building permits, agree to proper staffing which includes hiring a consultant who will procure multi-year contracts for tournaments, track and field events and other sources of revenue.
Revenues from the improved facility will be collected by the city, the CEA states, but sponsorships and donations connected to the improvements, will be granted to the ODD as a return for the construction funding investment.