January 21, 2013 10:30:41 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
"If you build it, they will come."
That was the mentality when the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and the Columbus City Council decided to build the $5 million, 70-acre soccer complex, and with the announcement of two major tournaments -- the Coaches Cup in November and the Presidents Cup in May 2014 -- people will definitely be coming to the Friendly City.
But the complex has been plagued with congested traffic and parking problems since it opened in September, leading many to wonder if the Columbus Soccer Complex can handle the crowds associated with hosting a major tournament.
In November, the board of supervisors approved an additional $100,000 to use for more restrooms and a coaches area for the complex. The city followed with an additional $100,000 at the request of Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Director Roger Short.
In December, Kevin Stafford, of Neel-Schaffer, asked the board's permission to seek up to $50,000 in PLN funds through Tombigbee Water Management to put in two culverts on the back end of the property on Coretta Street.
"Putting in culverts and connecting Coretta Street will allow people to circle all the way around the park," Stafford said. "It will help eliminate a lot of the traffic congestion."
Stafford said the $50,000 estimate was on the high end, and he expected the project to cost less. The PLN funds would cover the engineering fees and materials.
"Tombigbee Water Management is going to put in the pipes and do the dirt crossing," Stafford said. "This will be done this summer. I feel pretty certain it will be completed by August."
District 1 Supervisor and board president Harry Sanders praised the Coretta Street extension.
"This will help the traffic problem tremendously," Sanders said in December. "By connecting Coretta Street, it will allow people to circle around to the south end after a ball game instead of going out the same way they came in."
With a plan in action to help ease the traffic flow on the back end of the complex, the county has also devised a plan to increase the number of parking spots in the park. The county purchased a half-acre of property at Seventh Avenue North and Third Street North and an additional small parcel of land east of the property. Short said this should create an additional 30 parking spots. Short said he is in talks with the county about having the spillover grass parking lot on the north end of the complex paved or slagged.
"I think we will have enough parking for the tournaments," Short said. "Our local folks want to park right on top of the fields. But people coming in from out of town for tournaments will use the Hitching Lot parking area and the parking lot at the Trotter."
Short said the additional restrooms and coaches lounge should be completed by summer.