Work on Jonesboro Sports Complex could begin in late summer

by George Jared ([email protected]) 3,069 views 

For many years, public officials and residents have wanted a multi-faceted sports complex in Jonesboro. Mayor Harold Copenhaver told Talk Business & Politics completing the project is one of his primary goals during his term of office.

According to a feasibility study by Eastern Sports Management, the complex would generate more than $740 million worth of economic activity during its lifetime. That includes more than $500 million in taxable spending.

ESM’s Economic Impact Report stated that the city would tally more than $7.6 million in sales and use tax collections. Another $8 million would be garnered through hotel tax collections and would generate another $6.3 million in utilities revenue. The complex would have a $22 million total impact on city coffers alone, the report noted.

The complex will cost $50 million to build, ESM determined. Architectural designs for the complex that will be located on a more than 36-acre swath near the confluence of Race and McLellan streets should be completed by early summer, the mayor said.

Construction is projected to start later this summer and it is estimated it will take about a year to complete. Once it is finished, it will become an economic engine pumping millions of dollars into the local and regional economy each year, Copenhaver said.

“I don’t like using the word ‘game-changer’ … but this project will have a major impact on Northeast Arkansas,” he said.

The complex will have an aquatic center with a competition level pool along warm up lanes and other indoor aquatics. Among the features that will be offered will be a splash pad and a 22,000 square foot, outdoor aquatics area. The second part of the complex will feature basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts. It will also have synthetic turf fields. Meeting rooms, offices, a kitchen, and other amenities will be built.

A 10-member steering committee, led by Chair Kevin Hodges, recently selected Nabholz Construction Co. to build the complex. Several subject matter experts such as those involved in AAU basketball, volleyball or swimming have consulted on the project, Hodges said. These experts have helped to guide and shape how the facility will be constructed.

Hodges, the St. Bernards Vice President of Affiliated and Senior Services, has experience with major construction projects. He played an integral role in the health system’s recent $140 million expansion and renovation project near downtown Jonesboro.

The project will be paid for with a 2% prepared food tax. The tax will generate about $5 million per year. City officials are currently contemplating how to finance the project either with bonds or other means.

“The city is in the process of figuring out what the best financial plan is for our taxpayers who are funding this facility,” he said.

After it opens, the mayor said he expects there to be events at the complex virtually every weekend. Swim competitions, and other athletic tournaments will pour money into local coffers as visitors eat, rent hotels rooms, and spend in other ways, he said.

Once it is open, visitors to the city will help pay for the facility, he added.

Copenhaver said he hopes the timeline for building the complex will be met. However, he acknowledged that there are circumstances such as supply chain issues, construction labor challenges and unforeseen construction issues that could delay the opening.

As of now, the mayor said he remains optimistic that NEA’s hub city could have a sports complex open sometime in late 2024.

“Our goal obviously is to stick with that year’s timeframe,” he said. “But, supply chain and other issues could dictate what that timeframe will end up being.”