Charles Pointe’s ambitious fields of dreams Plans call for major sporting complex

The Exponent Telegram
Sunday, April 5, 2009
by Kara Moore

Genesis Partners’ vision for the recreational complex at Charles Pointe involves more than just ball fields.

Ultimately, the master plan calls for a YMCA beside the city park and a school, amphitheater and church nearby.

But one thing at a time.

For now, Bridgeport is preparing to do its part by building a 40-acre municipal park that is slated to include two full-sized and two youth league-sized baseball fields in a wagon-wheel configuration, two additional softball fields, a football stadium with artificial turf, a track, parking areas, walking trails and a picnic area, plus concessions, lights and restrooms.

The developers of Charles Pointe, Genesis Partners, created the concept drawing for the park.

Harrison County owns the land and leases it to Genesis Partners, which in turn subleases it to the city of Bridgeport, according to Harrison County Commissioner Ron Watson.

All three entities agreed to the park’s scope and basic design.

“The concept was originally designed by Charles Pointe people, and it was approved and commented upon by the county,” Mayor Jim Christie said.

Christie said that design is exactly what the city wants to build, but it will have to determine what is feasible once the land has been leveled.

The city originally planned to build the park over a series of phases, paying as the city’s budget would allow.  Council has set aside $1.2 million to start the project.

The park’s total cost estimate isn’t in yet, but Christie said $6 million has been floated as an early “guesstimate.”

Now that the city is poised to begin the first part of the work, officials are weighing whether the approach of building in phases or all at once makes the most sense.

“There could be big cost savings by doing the dirt work all at once,” Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws said.  “It saves mobilization costs as well as fuel costs.”

Mobilization cost is the price of getting the equipment to the site. 

And Haws said doing the whole project all at once would mean doing it in “today’s dollars.”

But the other major advantage of building the park in one phase, according to Christie, is that it would be completed and available for use sooner.

Part of the vision for the park is that it would attract athletic tournaments to the area, according to Christie and Genesis Partners’ Jamie Corton.

“If we do it right, it could act as a huge economic engine for tournaments and things like that in the summer,” Corton said.

That would mean business for hotels and restaurants, according to Corton.

But the total cost of the project is more than this year’s budget, so the city would have to look elsewhere to pay for it.

The city could take on debt in the form of bonds to pay for the project and seek grant funding.

Bridgeport officials have used bond money to pay for other projects, but Christie said they’ve consistently paid them off early.

The city recently sold bonds to pay for a new public safety building at the United Hospital Center site across Interstate 79 from Charles Pointe.

Christie said Bridgeport City Council can budget several hundred thousand dollars each year and complete the park in phases, paying as they go, or the city can use a bond to build it now and set aside the same amount of money each year to pay it back in the same time frame.

But Christie said he hasn’t yet decided which approach is more prudent.  That’ll depend on the numbers, he said.

City Recorder Mario Blount said he sees three reasons to complete the park all at once:  cost savings, quicker availability for use and aesthetics.

Blount pointed out that if the park is completed piecemeal, the concrete and asphalt won’t match, and the unfinished parts of the park will be an eyesore next to the finished parts.

And like Haws and Christie, he said the project will be cheaper if it’s done all at once.