Those using the ball fields at East Park, Central and McDonald Stadium can expect to see several improvements over the next four years. The City Commission approved the recommendation of the Excess Sales Tax Committee to move forward with a plan for multi-year improvements totaling a little over $2 million.
These funds come from the one-cent sales tax collected in 2021, which totaled $2,974,495. Of that, $1,650,000 for property tax reduction, $600,000 is used for street rehabilitation, and $100,000 for economic development. That left $624,495 for excess sales tax projects. There also were funds available from previous projects, including $1,240 from the fire station doors, $12,297 from the bike path solar lights and $92,439 from the cemetery road paving. In addition, there is approximately $100,000 already set aside for McDonald Stadium improvements, $67,483 for restroom/concession facilities, and $80,000 for Forest Park improvements.
In addition, the City is in discussions with Butler Community College to help fund improvements on the field they use.
While these projects would use a majority of the excess sales tax dollars over the next four years, some will be set aside for other projects. In the first two years it was proposed $630,000 and $670,000, respectively, be set aside for ballfields, and approximately $100,000 each year for other projects. Funds available the first year would actually total $730,471 in excess sales when combined with the remaining amounts from previous projects. Years three and four would each set aside $425,000 for ballfield improvements, with $75,000 for other projects each year. The amounts from the savings funds for McDonald Stadium, concessions and Forest Park will be used to reduce the amount taken from the sales tax fund at the end of the project. These numbers are estimates based on excess sales tax in recent years. Sales tax in 2022 has seen another record year, which will be allocated in 2023.
Staff proposed this plan for the ballfield projects because it would allow them to be completed more quickly than if the committee continued to set aside smaller amounts of funds for the different improvements each year. In addition, some of the improvements need to be made now, rather than waiting for funds to accumulate enough money to complete them.
It is estimated the ballfields have approximately 30,000 people in attendance each year for practices and games, with about 60 to 65 percent of those people being local residents.
In addition to the ballpark projects, the committee requested $150,000 for a new pergola and slide at the swimming pool, which also was approved.
These improvements will begin in 2023, with city staff doing as much of the work as they can.