The Southside Recreation Complex in Lake City will complete the first step of its renovation process this month.
The process began in June, and Clint Pittman, director of landscape and parks for the Columbia County Board of County Commissioners, said the complex is currently finishing:
- Three new concession stands, restrooms, sidewalks that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations
- 40 new sets of bleachers
- New dugout roofs and renovations on two baseball fields and one softball field
“Our sports organizations, all of them baseball, softball, soccer, have all increased in large numbers over the past few years,” Pittman said. “So we were dealing with access issues to some of the fields that we used to call practice fields. We’re using them all of the time now instead of occasionally.”
The Southside Recreation Center is one of the largest in North Central Florida, Pittman said.
Two baseball fields, one softball field and one adult softball field are closed during construction. The park remains open.
An increase in sports participation at the complex led to the $2.9 million project, which is supported by the Board of County Commissioners and the Tourist Development Council of Lake City of Columbia County.
The Tourist Development Council made a one percent increase in the Local Option Tourist Development Tax, otherwise known as the bed tax, said Harvey Campbell, executive director of the council. The tax increase will aid spending for the complex’s project.
People who stay in the area’s hotels for less than six months will have to pay the tax, which is now at four percent, Campbell said.
Funding for the project is at $2.6 million, according to the county’s website. Though Pittman said this figure is more realistic on how much will be spent, it does not include lighting installations.
The renovations were needed to meet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, renovate the fields, help benefit local leagues and draw more people in for economic development, he said.
“It gives them a nice facility to play at,” Pittman said. “It keeps kids off the street, but it also serves as an economic impact for our community.”
The second phase was expected to begin once approval of the budget was set at the Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday. It will include renovations to four playing fields, new SOD placement on surfaces, safety-netting installment to keep foul balls from hitting attendees and shade covers above bleachers, Pittman said.
The Sports Advisory Committee of Columbia County met Tuesday to give recommendations on the renovations of the complex, said Jack Muenchen, treasurer of the Lake City Columbia County Youth Baseball League.
Adding a Wi-Fi connection as well as the possibility of streaming games should be considered in the near future once renovations are completed, Muenchen said.
In the meantime, Muenchen said he is happy with the improvements being made to the fields.
“I just think we’re lucky the community has decided to do this,” Muenchen said. “The proof will be in the proving.”
In stage three, there will be light replacements at all of the girl’s softball fields and installment of some new fencing at the soccer fields, Pittman said. Last year, two soccer fields were renovated.
The final phase includes renovations to remaining fields, landscaping, sealing cement cracks in parking lots and renovation of some existing buildings on the facility.
Toward the entrance of the complex, located on Bascom Norris Road, a light-emitting diode (LED) message board along with a fountain will placed.
“If we have tournaments, they can actually advertise on that sign and put dates and times on when registration is,” Pittman said. “Around the registration LED sign, in the median and on either side of the entrance, we’re going to landscape those areas just to improve the aesthetics of the complex but also to make it functional as far as maintenance goes.”
The sports complex was initially built in the early 1980s and was run by Lake City’s government, Pittman said. The county took over the park about seven years ago.