The initial cost estimate of adding locker rooms to Blanchard Woods Park apparently was low, but Columbia County officials are moving forward with a plan they hope will attract big-ticket sporting events to the area.
Members of the Columbia County Community and Emergency Services committee discussed last month the possibility of building two locker rooms at the park at an estimated cost of $425,000. Officials said the project could be paid for through contingency and facility improvement funds. Once approved, construction is expected to take 11 months.
The timetable would allow the site to play host to the NCAA Division II men's and women's national soccer championships. Peach Belt Conference commissioner David Brunk told Columbia County officials in February they had a shot to land the title events with the addition of locker rooms. The county placed a bid to hold championships from 2011 through 2013.
The initial proposal was to build four locker rooms at an estimated cost of $350,000. The adjusted proposal would include the two locker rooms with room to expand.
The Peach Belt Conference held its conference championships at Blanchard Woods Park in the fall and will hold them there again in 2010. Brunk said the response has been positive.
"The teams have thoroughly enjoyed it," he said in February. "It's been good for the area."
Brunk estimated a $500,000 economic impact for each year the county plays host to the soccer championships, plus any additional exposure garnered from the matches being nationally televised.
The committee will meet again April 20 and could vote on the proposal.
Youth soccer programs would use the facilities, and Brunk said the park could lure cross country championships and conference challenge soccer events that pit Peach Belt teams against other conference programs. In the past, the county has been overlooked for lacrosse and cross country events because of the lack of locker facilities, the committee was told.
Blanchard Woods Park opened in September 2007 and features four regulation soccer fields, a soccer stadium and a cross country course considered to be among the best in the state.
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