Groundbreaking for the Cabot Outdoor Sports Complex was held last Thursday; the $13 million project joins others now under way that are funded by nearly $40 million in improvement bonds approved by voters in a special election last year.
The Sports Complex will be on 50 acres off Bill Foster Highway (Arkansas Highway 321), near the intersection of Kerr Station Road, across from the Cabot Schools Center of Academic Excellence.
With rains bearing down on the area, the ceremony was accelerated. Participants had barely turned the ceremonial shovelfuls before having to take shelter under canopies at the site.
“What an amazing day this is for the city of Cabot,” Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Maggie Cope said. The complex will benefit the entire community, everyone from the children to businesses will feel the results, she said.
“Most importantly, I want to thank the citizens of Cabot; without the citizens and the vote, this would not be possible,” she added.
Mayor Bill Cypert remarked that “Quality of life … is economic development. We are building a city where your kids and grandkids will want to live.
“This is an historic day for Cabot.”
Cope also remarked on the work done by individuals, departments and committees to promote the approval of the bond issue that is funding the Complex.
Included in the Complex will be a nine-field baseball complex, outdoor swimming pool complex, playgrounds, pavilions, concession facilities and walking track. There will also be storage facilities for Parks and Recreation equipment.
Two additional softball fields are to be added at the Bevis-Allman Sports Complex on South First Street.
The Sports Complex is one of five projects, dubbed “The five cornerstones for the bridge to the future for Cabot, Arkansas.” The others are the north terminal interchange, which will connect U.S. Highway 67/167 with the north railroad overpass - $9.5 million; the Cabot library relocation, expansion and renovation - $2.6 million; wastewater system improvements - $8.2 million; and the community center expansion and renovation - $5.5 million. Also in the projects was a $500,000 bond for drainage improvements in the Highlands area of Cabot.
The bond measure for improvements and expansion of the Cabot Veterans Park Community Center is separate from the Parks and Recreation facilities improvements.
The Community Center improvements include enlarged banquet and meeting room; a permanent stage facility; enlarged fitness and exercise area; a commercial kitchen and racquetball courts.
Cabot’s sales and use tax was first approved in 1999 to fund bond to develop a water source for the city.
In 2005, the tax was extended and the bond re-funded $22.6 million to build a new water treatment plant, railroad overpass, new animal shelter and to complete the community center.
During the 2013 town hall meetings, Cypert emphasized during the meetings that there would be no increase in the sales tax, with the existing sales tax allowed to continue to pay the bond debt.
Cypert said the city sales tax is probably going be a continuing revenue source to fund improvements. “It is likely that a growing community like Cabot will always have a continuing one-cent infrastructure tax,” he said. Such a tax is probably the fairest way to finance infrastructure improvements, with everyone doing business in Cabot paying rather than citizens or ratepayers, alone, Cypert said.
With current revenue, if all the bonds were approved, the pay off would come in about 13 years, Cypert said. “And that’s not considering any growth.”
Each project was a ballot issue; each had to be approved by voters.
Percentage-wise, re-funding of Cabot’s sales and use tax and six bond issues for improvement projects were approved by a 72-percent margin in the special election held in April 2013.
There were 833 votes cast in the April 2013 special election; at the time there were about 12,900 voters registered in Cabot – making it a turnout of about 6.5 percent.