Jonesboro mayor updates on park projects, sports complex

by George Jared ([email protected]) 464 views 

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver told Talk Business & Politics that there are many priorities facing the first term mayor, but the top two are public safety and improving quality of life metrics. One quality of life project that is under construction is a new swimming pool in the northern section of the city.

The pool will cost $1.5 million to build, the mayor said. It will be built on the Parker Park property. Once completed, nearly a third of the city’s residents will be within driving minutes of the new facility, he added.

“It’s badly needed in that part of our city … it’s going to be a really nice swimming pool when it’s finished,” he said. “Quality of life is important. The only issue that’s more important to me is having a happy and safe community.”

Ground work is expected to start late this spring or early summer. The pool will have a slide, splash pad and other amenities. It will be L-shaped. It will be another component at Parker Park which already includes two basketball courts, a playground and other features.

At the start of 2023, city leaders dedicated $6 million towards Jonesboro’s parks system and the money is needed for renovations and expansions, Copenhaver said.

Another ongoing parks project is at Craighead Forest Park. About 22 miles of soft surface trails will be added at the park by the end of the year. The city has partnered with Jonesboro Unlimited for part of the project, Copenhaver said.

For two years, the city has stashed away money to cover the $800,000 price tag for the new trails.

Craighead Forrest Park opened in 1937 when the Young Men’s Civic Club began work on the lake in the heart of the park. The park is comprised of nearly 700 acres and it offers a wide variety of dirt and asphalt trails along with camping, fishing, basketball, exercise stations and others.

The most ambitious quality of life project underway by the city is the Jonesboro Sports Complex. Slated to be located on Race Street, construction on the $50 million project could begin as early as late summer.

Copenhaver said the project should take about a year to complete once work begins. Supply chain issues, labor shortages and unforeseen construction issues could push that timeframe further, however, he admitted.

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 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.

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.