Bridgeport invests $7.8M in recreation complex

The Exponent Telegram

Monday, January 14, 2013

By Adam Tobias
Staff Writer

BRIDGEPORT – The city of Bridgeport already has exceeded its $6.5 million commitment to the Harrison County Commission to construct a recreation complex at a 40-acre parcel along W.Va. 131, financial records show.

But some city officials say even more projects at the local facility could be on the horizon.

According to an audit prepared by the certified public accounting firm of Tetrick & Bartlett PLLC, the city has spent more than $7.8 million to develop the property, which consists of four baseball diamonds, a multi-purpose field, a basketball court, a mile-long walking trail and concession stands.

The audit also states that when the land was deeded to the city, Bridgeport officials pledged to the county commission they would invest up to $6.5 million – including grants – toward the undertaking over a 10-year period. The city acquired the parcel in 2009.

All of the funds to build the complex primarily have been made available from the city's general fund budget, according to the audit.

The city also has received $635,000 in grants to enhance the property, the audit says.

In addition to the grants, and general fund budget dollars, city council approved the borrowing of $2.1 million to complete the project, the audit shows.

According to Finance Director Monica Musgrave, the city still owes $962,000 on that loan.

The maturity date of the bond is Aug. 1, 2016, she added.

Council members also recently authorized the transfer of $145,000 in hotel and motel tax revenues to install 30-foot barriers around the backstops of the four baseball diamonds. Canvass-type coverings also are being placed over the bleachers in that area.

Council took this action to help prevent more foul balls from leaving the diamonds.

Mayor Jim Christie also said he is proposing to provide lighting at the facility's multi-purpose field.

"Without lights, you've eliminated probably 60 percent of your available time for usage," he added.

Christie also would like to see the field have an irrigation system.

According to City Manager Kim Haws, city staff was directed last week to get an estimate on the two undertakings.

Councilwoman Melissa Matheny and community volunteers also have been pushing for the construction of a nearly $330,000 skateboarding park at the complex.

But the city has yet to designate any funds toward that project, Recorder Mario Blount said.

The county commission also was asked in April to make a $100,000 contribution, but it tabled that request until Bridgeport council members make a financial commitment.

Christie also says the complex has room for expansion on the northern end of the parcel, but council is not doing any active planning for that section at this time.

But there have been discussions on building a baseball field in that area for children with physical and mental challenges, Christie added.

Although Haws admits Bridgeport doesn't have any parks and recreation programs and facilities that pay for themselves, he still believes the new complex has provided a tremendous destination opportunity for the city.

He also says it contributes to the community's quality of life.

"We have people coming to Bridgeport who would not normally come to Bridgeport and using city services, city businesses and, particularly, our hotel rooms," Haws said.

According to Randy Spellman, director of community development, the recreation center hosted seven tournaments in 2012, as well as several local leagues that played for the entire season.

Spellman says those same seven tournaments will be returning this year. The city also hopes to add about four more competitions as well, he added.

Spellman also said the city's hotels, restaurants and shops see increased traffic whenever a tournament is held at the facility.

"It's definitely a good shot in the arm from an economic standpoint," he added.