The city of O’Fallon is ready to kick off events at its new artificial turf soccer complex in O’Fallon Family Sports Park.
Instead of a ribbon-cutting, a soccer ball kicking ceremony is slated for 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31 to celebrate the opening of the seven new fields.
Besides use by locals, the hope is that the new facility to make O’Fallon a destination for large tournaments, bringing more people to town to spend money on hotels, at restaurants, etc.
“We’re so excited,” Mary Jeanne Hutchison, O’Fallon Parks and Recreation director, said. “The economic impact is wonderful for our community.”
The $4.58 million project also included new restrooms and two new west and south parking lots to accommodate 520 new spaces, as well as parking lot improvements bringing the total parking spaces available to 640. The new fields, bringing the park total to eight now, will be used for soccer, lacrosse, and other activities, according Hutchison.
“We have a whole encompassed program here that has developed. Kids have already been on the turf, because team practice and league play have begun, and the first of five tournaments are scheduled starting in September, and we hope to have that doubled by next spring,” said Hutchison. “The cooperative purchasing process has allowed us no loss of field time.”
With teams like KIXX United FC soccer club having a major presence at the park, Hutchison said, the new fields will be helping local athletes, too.
“These kids are going be able to play here and not have to travel Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago, but be able to stay here — go home get into their beds and still play the top-caliber teams in the Midwest or further. And that’s a huge savings for our parents, and the best thing is (out-of-town) parents are directly paying for it. It’s coming from our travelers, so their very fortunate,” Hutchison said.
The project and renovation work is funded by the local hotel and motel tax, which Hutchison called the “heads in beds” tax through visitors to O’Fallon, not local taxpayers.
O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach said he is pleased with the quality of work that’s been completed.
“I think everything about the project is great. We’re looking forward to having it open so that we can start some programs and tournaments,” Roach said.
The city may have lost out on the fall season of athletic tournaments altogether if the project hadn’t been streamlined the way it was, Hutchison said.
“So the fields are basically done. What we’re doing now is just infrastructure items, like getting in the power transformer and switch gear for the light poles that are already up. They are running sidewalks, finishing up the parking lots, restrooms and a Dumpster enclosure,” Hutchison said.
Carrying out the design engineer work, Gary Hoelscher, director of Millennia Professional Services, said the project was a “fun challenge” with expedited completion in less than 90 days. Usually projects of this magnitude take up to 18 months or longer, where as O’Fallon’s project from design to completion is only about nine months, he said.
“There were five packages to this project, with the fields getting down first. They had to be done in this order so they could be open by now,” Hoelscher said.
There is still some work yet to do, including lighting.
“I think we will have all the fields and everything up and running within a month from now with lights. So it’s been a great process and got great direction from the city and a lot of support. It’s been really neat to see something come together with a team of contractors, and the city and consultants we’ve been working with,” Hoelscher said.
St. Louis-based Byrne & Jones Sports performed the site work and installation of the artificial surface fields.
According to Hutchison, rather than put the project out to bid, the city tapped the National Joint Power Alliance of more than 50,000 member agencies to complete all of its product and service purchasing. The turnkey project for the artificial turf fields were procured through NJPA vendor Shaw Sports Turf, based in Calhoun, Ga.
“We wanted to ensure taxpayer money on the sports complex renovations was spent wisely,” Hutchison said. “The quality of the turf is only going to be as good as the subsurface conditions. That requires a certified builder proficient in site preparation including amending soil conditions and improving drainage. All of that was built into our Shaw Sports Turf package.”
Cooperative purchase agreements allow cities, schools and governmental entities to more efficiently procure products and services through vendors that have been thoroughly vetted and priced by a cooperative purchasing entity. The purchasing consortium becomes the lead agency in bidding and awarding contracts for its members who can select turnkey contracts that have already been competitively bid. It saves time and money because there is one procurement process rather than many.
“NJPA gave us a complete package that had been thoroughly researched and priced. In the end, we got the product we wanted for the right price and were able to streamline the construction process to get all seven fields built in 89 calendar days,” Hutchison said.