BIXBY, Okla. - A crowd of nearly 60 celebrants gathered in Bixby June 10 to take part in a groundbreaking ceremony to officially begin construction on the town;s Bentley Park Sports Complex.
When completed, the complex will feature two baseball quads, two softball quads, an international soccer field, 12 youth soccer fields, a super playground, spray and splash pad, horseshoe pits, sand volleyball, bocce courts, and walking trails that connect to the main walking trail along the Arkansas River.
The new construction will be added to an existing state-of-the-art baseball quad at the site. The complex is being hailed as the finest sports complex and youth park, and one of the largest playgrounds, in the state of Oklahoma.
The project will cost $5.3 million to complete. Planning Design Group of Tulsa was selected to design the complex, and Cherokee Nation Industries was awarded the contract for the construction of Phase II of the project after submitting the most competitive bid. This is CNI's first private-sector construction project.
According to Geoff Evans, a project manager with the Planning Design Group, the firm's primary goal is to benefit the community.
''Our first objective is to make something terrific for the citizens of Bixby; if it generates extra income for the town, that's a bonus.''
In order to meet the needs of the area's youth sports organizations, the Bixby City Council began to acquire more acreage around Bentley Park, a 47-acre recreational area. Total acreage in Bentley Park and in adjacent Keas Field is now approximately 100 acres. During Phase I of the project, grant money was used to build four quads. Then, in spring 2006, Bixby voters passed a $6 million bond in order to finance the construction of the complex. Phase II began after the groundbreaking, with construction now under way.
CNI is well-known in the state for its excellent construction of health centers and various other tribal ventures in previous years. CEO Bryan Collins said he was elated about working with the city of Bixby, and excited about the Bentley Park project.
''CNI decided to start going out for bids in the private sector because there simply isn't enough tribal construction throughout the year to stabilize employment,'' Collins explained. ''In our effort to continue to develop and expand our economic prospects for the tribe, we made the decision to start taking on work outside of our tribal projects.''
He said CNI is a diverse company that has been a leader in aerospace and defense manufacturing for nearly 40 years, and he is confident that its reputation for excellence will continue to grow as the construction division of the company pursues new projects.
''I am personally quite excited about the whole project. It's a tremendous asset for the community and for the quality of life here,'' said Trish Richey, Bixby's director of economic development.
Within the project's master plan, there are also plans in the works for a third phase of construction at the park that will include a multipurpose building to house the Bixby Parks Department offices. The building will also function as a location for youth sports registration and indoor practice areas, including retractable pitching machines.
Richey said she is delighted with CNI's work on the complex.
''We are pleased to be CNI's first public project. I have been very impressed by their professionalism and the rapid progress they are making on the project.''
South Village, a new 20-acre commercial development adjoining the park, is also being developed and may eventually include a hotel, theater, retail stores, restaurants and a bowling alley.
''We're anticipating a nice influx of out-of-town and out-of-state visitors to the park to use the new facilities,'' said developer T.J. Remy. ''South Village will definitely benefit from its proximity to the Bentley Park Complex.''
In addition, city officials believe the park will become a regional attraction. Bixby City Manager Micky Webb said the park represents a huge boost to the city's overall quality of life, and Mayor Ray Bowen said he believes it will draw in more business for Bixby's growing retail sector.
''This is going to have a huge impact on our community,'' Bowen said. ''We have already been holding baseball tournaments on the first four quads almost every week. Local restaurants, hotels and other local concerns will surely experience an increase in business when the park is completed. With the park and the adjacent river development, you won't find anything else like it in the state. It's going to be a big draw for the South Tulsa area.''
Bowen said he is also impressed by CNI's work so far.
''They are doing everything they can to make this a showcase project. It's amazing how much work they have already accomplished.''
Businesses throughout the Bixby area joined together to support the sports complex by sponsoring various aspects of the park. Naming and sponsorship rights for each of the quads will be sold on a 10-year basis, and the money raised will be put back into the complex for maintenance and capital improvements. Naming rights for each of the soccer fields and for the super playground will be sold for 10-year sponsorships. The trails, bocce court, sand volleyball and splash pad sponsorships will be sold on an annual basis and automatically renew each year.
''Bentley Park is going to be a phenomenal addition to the city of Bixby's parks and recreation program and we just thank the city for giving us the opportunity to work on a project that will impact the entire community,'' said Roy J. Hannaford, executive vice president of construction for CNI in a release.