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Sunday, December 21, 2014, 8:08 p.m.
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Batesville starts work on new community center

By Angela Spencer

This article was published April 13, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

parks-and-recreation-director-jeff-owens-left-and-batesville-mayor-rick-elumbaugh-are-seen-with-artists-renderings-of-the-new-batesville-community-center

Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Owens, left, and Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh are seen with artist‘s renderings of the new Batesville community center.

BATESVILLE — If things go as planned, residents in and around Batesville will be able to play basketball and float along the lazy river at a new community center next summer.

“It’s going to be a major attraction for the city,” said Jeff Owens, Batesville Parks and Recreation director, “not only for the people to come in, but it adds to the quality of life and the healthy lifestyle opportunities for the citizens as well.”

Ground was broken for the project in March, and the plans include a gymnasium for three basketball courts or six volleyball courts, offices, group fitness rooms, meeting rooms, a fitness center, a pool area with an overlooking community room, a therapy pool, a zip line, party pavilions and a lazy river.

The idea for a community center in Batesville has been around for several years, Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh said. Originally, a proposal in 2010 showed a $45 million facility, but the funding failed by less than 100 votes.

In 2012, a $26 million proposal passed with about a 60 percent approval rate, Elumbaugh said. This includes a half-cent tax for capital improvements that will sunset in 20 to 25 years and a permanent half-cent tax for the center’s operation and maintenance.

The community center will cost $22 million, with the other $4 million going toward youth baseball fields and a soccer complex. The baseball fields and soccer complex are both 80 percent complete.

Elumbaugh said he visited several community centers of various sizes to get an idea of what would be best for Batesville.

“It’s kind of like building a home,” he said. “You only have one chance to do that right.”

Currently, the city has not set a fee for access to the community center, but Elumbaugh said it will be “very affordable.”

Additionally, the center is expected to have a positive economic impact by bringing people in, both for recreational use and for conferences and other events.

“I have no doubt we will be getting people from Searcy, Bald Knob, Wynn — places like that; not just for special events, but just to bring their kids to the pool,” Owens said. “It will have a large economic impact on the city.”

While the splash pads and the pool area may provide a fun escape for children and families, the community center will have practical uses within the programming that will be offered. Currently, the mayor and the parks department are gathering suggestions and taking surveys to figure out what the community wants.

“There’s going to be a lot of programming here, everything from 4-year-olds all the way through seniors, Owens said. … You can always go and figure out what programs are being held in other cities, but quite frankly, the demographics in Batesville may want something different. Without asking, you don’t know.”

For example, Elumbaugh said he talked to a group of senior citizens recently who wanted classes on how to use a smartphone.

“I’m sure we’ll work with local providers to come and teach a little technology to our seniors,” Elumbaugh said. “We’re going to try to implement as many programs [as possible] from that spectrum.”

Owens said suggestions for programming can be sent to him at parksdirector@cityofbatesville.com. The community center is expected to open in summer 2015.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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