There has been a great deal of discussion of a proposed recreational complex in Harrison, but another portion of the bigger proposal is a sales tax that would help the city Parks Department upgrade and maintain current facilities.
Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson, Finance director Luke Feighert and Parks director Chuck Eddington addressed some members of Harrison School administration and the PTA Advisory Council on Thursday regarding the plan.
The recreational complex will require voter approval of a 0.75% sales tax that would pay off bonds for construction. The city’s bond attorney said the city will never see revenue from the tax because it will go to a bond trustee to see the debt retired. That tax would expire when bonds are paid off.
But another issue that will be on the November special election ballot is a 0.25% permanent sales tax that would be used for maintenance and operation of the center, as well as to maintain and upgrade current Parks facilities.
If the 0.75% tax passes muster with voters and the smaller tax is defeated, the city would most likely not impose the larger tax — without the 0.25% tax there would be no money for operating the center.
On the other hand, if the 0.75% temporary tax fails and the 0.25% passes, revenue would go toward the Parks facilities anyway.
On Thursday, Eddington pointed out to those school officials on hand the location for the proposed complex. It’s a 40-acre section of land off Gipson Road that abuts to the baseball and softball fields at the current Sports Complex.
If the tax passes, the department will add covered bleachers at those fields for shade and for safety, especially regarding foul balls, Eddington said. They would also look at updating concession and bathroom facilities, as well as installing turf on infields.
He said turf would be installed for the benefit of area schools who use the sports complex. Eddington said he spoke with Harrison coaches and found that 60% of their February practices were held on the parking lot as opposed to fields that were too muddy to use.
Aside from just benefit to schools, Eddington said records show tournaments the city hosts had a $2 million impact on revenue for restaurants and hotels alone, which equates to increased sales tax collections for the city.
“We’re hoping to triple that if we get these facilities updates,” Eddington said.
People had asked what would happen with the Brandon Burlsworth Youth Center. Eddington said it would remain operational as a basketball facility, among myriad other uses.
He explained that Harrison can’t host large basketball tournaments in the summer because there are so few air-conditioned gyms available in the area. One court can handle 10 teams in a full day of rotation. The only such gyms available in are the Youth Center, Harrison Middle School, North Arkansas College and Bergman.
An 80-team tournament was moved to Mountain Home earlier this year due to the lack of air-conditioned facilities, which amounted to a loss of potentially $250,000 in revenue.
The new recreational complex would include four basketball courts, so the Parks system would then have six courts available. By partnering with other entities, the city could possibly host a 100-team tournament.
The Youth Center would still be used for volleyball, pickleball and parties, although the new center would drastically expand the possibilities for parties. Eddington also said there is a possibility of installing portable turf to make room for indoor soccer, softball and baseball practice at need.