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Saturday, December 03, 2022

Gainesville City Commission moves forward with East Gainesville sports complex proposal

A closer look at the city’s recommendations for expanding and renovating the complex

<p>Graphic of Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut and Citizens Field. Chesnut’s East Gainesville sports complex proposal has sparked debate among East Gainesville residents  </p>

Graphic of Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut and Citizens Field. Chesnut’s East Gainesville sports complex proposal has sparked debate among East Gainesville residents 

The Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously Thursday to forge ahead with the proposed East Gainesville sports complex.

Commissioners approved analyses that will evaluate the complex’s practicality and profitability.

The vote paves the way for the commission to understand the approximate cost, revenue and impact on the economy and traffic for the potential upgraded facility on Eighth Avenue and Waldo Road.

Roxana Gonzalez, director of parks, recreation and cultural affairs for the city, emphasized the proposed renovations do not intend to compete with Celebration Pointe but facilitate community-building and allow city residents an opportunity to usecity property.

Public reaction was mixed when the complex was first proposed. Some East Gainesville residents hoped a new facility could stimulate economic prosperity in the area, while others were concerned commissioners’ priorities were out of line and pleaded for them to support existing business and housing instead.

Commissioners said discussion about the east side landmark, which has long been in need of attention, should revolve around neighbors living in the area. Residents’ input is a priority, commissioners agreed — they are the ones who use the complex every day to get outside, walk their dogs or toss a baseball around.

Jonathan Stephens, a 19-year-old UF food science and agricultural communications sophomore who volunteers on the east side, said the sports complex would enrich the east side of Gainesville but echoed the uneasiness of sportsplex adversaries.

“Is this the biggest priority that we need to focus on?” he asked.

He recognized the east side is full of historic districts and homes, and he hopes the new complex will not disrupt those communities.

The city proposed the MLK building — currently 19,000 square feet — should expand to a minimum of 60,000 square feet. The center could double its full-sized indoor basketball courts from two to four and include locker rooms, showers and fitness classrooms in a second floor fitness center.

The presentation detailed a centralized covered pavilion, a paved fitness trail and an outdoor hallway extension with access to the renovated pool. It also pitched an indoor stage and second-floor perimeter track and viewing area. 

Gonzalez said Citizens Park could fit six multi-use rectangular fields for sports like soccer, rugby, lacrosse and ultimate frisbee. 

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It also recommended a stadium with a minimum of 8,000 to 10,000 seats. The stadium would feature an outdoor high school-sized track, ticket booths, two locker rooms, a press box, a concession stand, PA system and digital scoreboard.

The feasibility study must project the complex’s one- to five-year plan of event opportunities, estimate the number of visitors and detail its revenue and economic impact. It should also include funding sources, potential grants, sponsorships, partnership opportunities and naming opportunities.

The assessment will review existing hotel availability and estimate growth in the area surrounding the complex. Many East Gainesville residents also await traffic impact evaluations.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and the rest of the commission were cautiously optimistic for the future of the sportsplex. 

The city will give companies about 30 to 45 days to offer their services after the request for proposal is made public this month. 

City Manager Cynthia Curry estimated the commission would have an evaluation recommendation to hire a firm by September. 

Contact Carissa Allen at callen@alligator.org or follow her on Twitter @carissaallenn.

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Carissa Allen

Carissa Allen is a third-year journalism and political science double major. She is excited to continue her work on the Metro desk this semester as the East Gainesville Reporter. In her free time, you can find her scuba diving, working out or listening to a podcast.


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