With $20.8 million to spend on improvements to the Cooper Park and Sports Complex, the Springfield-Greene County Park Board would like to hire Olsson Inc. as an engineering consultant to lead the way.
Bob Belote, director of parks and recreation, approached Springfield City Council on Aug. 22 to seek permission to hire the company at a cost of $915,660.
Though the measure was simply for the hiring of a consultant, council members expressed enthusiasm about the possibilities for both recreation and sports tourism at the complex.
If its contract is approved, Olsson, a national engineering firm with a Springfield office, will consult on master planning, engineering and survey work, as well as project design, document development, bidding development and awarding, and oversight of the improvements to the complex.
Chief among those improvements is the replacement of the turf on the Greenwood Championship Field, plus the installation of new artificial turf on seven other fields.
“So, a total of eight turf fields in all,” said Belote, “which will most definitely return our Cooper soccer complex back to the sports tourism category of anchor facility status and allow us the opportunity to host a far wider range of national, regional and state soccer championships.”
Belote said the project also will provide new locker rooms, improvements to the press box, enhanced spectator seating and more concessions.
Improvements also will be made to 10 remaining grass fields, the Killian softball complex and the Cooper baseball complex, Belote said.
The city has pledged $7.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for improvements, and county and state money also has been allocated, for a total of $20.8 million. Council learned that some $3.5 million in private pledges have been raised by nonprofit organization Lake Country Soccer Inc. as well.
Belote said the goal is to have eight new turf fields up and playable for the 2024 soccer season.
“I really feel like every square inch of Cooper Park is invaluable to us,” he said, adding, “We’re going to do turf first and foremost – we’re going to have fantastic turf throughout that entire park.”
Councilperson Abe McGull praised the project for its economic promise.
“I look at this as being a force multiplier as well as an economic multiplier for this entire area,” he said.
It was a sentiment that Councilperson Craig Hosmer shared.
“Since I’ve been on council, this is probably the best broad-based economic development thing that we’ve done,” he said. “It doesn’t just help one developer; it helps restaurants, hotels, motels, retail, gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores – it helps the whole city of Springfield.”
Councilperson Richard Ollis stressed the importance of planning for maintenance and repairs.
“I think it’s exceptionally important that these be maintained as tournament-grade facilities and not specifically recreation-grade facilities,” he said.
Olsson was responsible for consulting on similar facilities in Overland Park, Kansas, which are highly regarded.
“That should be our bar or greater,” said Ollis.
Council will vote on the proposal at its next meeting Sept. 6.
With some deliberation and a mixed vote, council approved a rezoning request that would allow the Loose Goose coffee shop, bar and recreational venue to proceed as the first commercial development on the Grant Avenue Parkway.
At issue with the plan was the decision by developer GDL Enterprises LLC to include a drive-thru for the coffee shop and package liquor sales in the $1 million development, which also will feature food trucks, indoor and outdoor seating, an outdoor walk-up bar, green space for yard games and pickleball courts, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Council voted 6-3 to approve the rezoning of 1.5 acres at 1015 S. Grant Ave. and 1012, 1020 and 1024 S. Douglas Ave. to planned development from the Grant Avenue Parkway District, a zoning status custom designed to establish parameters for the $26 million parkway project.
Voting against the measure were council members Hosmer, Mike Schilling and Monica Horton. They expressed concerns that some aspects of the development were not in harmony with a parkway intended to increase foot and bicycle traffic.
One enthusiastic proponent of the development was Ollis, who pointed to the support of the West Central and Fassnight neighborhood associations. He added the project has built-in pedestrian activities and has the potential to serve as a neighborhood hub.
“This is the anchor activity center that we need along the Grant Avenue Parkway,” he said. “Although it doesn’t meet the strict compliance of the plan, it certainly in spirit I think complies with the mixed-use component of the plan.”
Horton said she was initially in favor of the rezoning but had changed her mind.
She said the city is poised to be a critical ally in efforts toward multimodal transportation equity. She said the GAP plan adopted in 2021 is designed to remove systemic barriers and increase access to pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly spaces with its use of traffic calming devices and ban on drive-thru establishments.
She added the GAP plan and the proposed Forward SGF comprehensive plan seek to improve Americans with Disabilities Act-mandated access to public and private spaces for people with different abilities.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously supported the zoning change, but city staff were opposed. Brendan Griesemer, the city’s assistant director of planning, said city staff felt the proposed development did not meet the intent of the plan.
Other action items
No council members offered comment on the measure before the unanimous approval.
Workforce Development Director Sally Payne said 509 applications were made nationwide, and 32 grants were awarded. The Springfield department is the only grantee in the state and will serve 51 counties.
A baked goods vendor at Farmers Market of the Ozarks expanded to a brick-and-mortar operation; the first lending center for Old Missouri Bank opened; and London Calling Pasty Co. added a new food truck.