Early voting begins Tuesday in Conway’s election to decide bond issues for swimming and soccer centers

Early voting begins Tuesday in a special election to ask Conway voters to approve three bond issues totaling $39.7 million for the construction of a new aquatic center and separate soccer complex.

“Swimming meets, volleyball tournaments and pickle ball tournaments at the Conway Community Center will bring families from across the country to Conway,” said Mayor Bart Castleberry. “For the residents of Conway, there will be affordable opportunities for everyone year-round. We believe the community center and football complex will almost complement our recreational offerings.”

Citizens of Conway can vote early at the Faulkner County Courthouse between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and the following Monday.

Polls will open — at the McGee Center or the Don Owen Sports Center — at 7:30 a.m. on February 8 and close at 7:30 p.m.

The idea of ​​an aquatic complex has been around for decades.

Castleberry says it’s important to complete the goal.

“I’ve been with the city since the early 1980s, and we’ve been talking about a public pool ever since,” he said. “We’ve been investing in our parks for a while. We’re finally at the point where we’ve paid off our obligations to a point where we can present it to people.”

The process began last year with the appointment of a committee led by Ward 4, Post 2, Councilor Shelia Isby. The group has spent the past year visiting other community centers across the state, including Pine Bluff, Clarksville, Rogers and Bentonville, returning with several design and layout options.

The town also held workshops in the fall to ask Conway residents what they wanted to see in the new community and aquatics center and soccer complex.

THE OBLIGATIONS

In the special election, voters will be asked to adopt three bond issues.

The first is $6.9 million and will be used to repay a series of 2017 bonds.

The second is $27.3 million to fund the construction and operation of the community and aquatic center.

The third is $5.5 million to build the soccer complex.

Each bond issue will be listed separately on the ballot. It is possible for one bond issue to be approved while the others fail.

Several Conway residents have challenged the city’s social media accounts to call a special election instead of waiting for the next regular election in May.

“Why is it a special election instead of holding it when more people are paying attention to the election, when voter turnout will be higher, and without the added cost of a special election?” said Christy Horpedahl. “It seems undemocratic to do it this way.”

State law only allows cities in Arkansas to hold special elections on only four dates throughout the year — the second Tuesday in February, May, August or November, the gatekeeper said. city ​​spokesman, Bobby Kelly, in an interview.

The special election will cost the city about $5,600, Kelly said.

“These proposed projects are significant enough to warrant a stand-alone election,” he said. “On February 8, Conway voters will only vote on issues related to the City of Conway. There will be no other questions or candidates on the ballot. Additionally, if the questions are accepted, a February’s election will obviously allow the city to start building projects sooner.

If the issue passes or fails, the taxes will stay the same, Kelly said. Conway voters are being asked to reallocate existing sales tax collections from the Conway Advertising and Promotions Commission, now pledged to secure bonds that were issued to fund various parks and trail facilities.

“We will continue to raise A&P funds. The people of Conway will be taxed the same,” he said, adding that if the measure fails, the funds will be used for other, smaller park projects.

SWIMMING CENTER

Final renderings — by Erik Kocher of Hastings + Chivetta Architects in St. Louis — are of a two-level indoor and outdoor aquatic center and full gymnasium that will be located on the site of the city’s former airport in the Central Landing region.

The Aquatics Center will include an eight-lane 25-meter competition pool with a two-lane temperature-controlled cooling and warming pool, with an indoor current channel pool, underwater bubble benches and two party rooms. .

The outdoor area will feature a zero-entry beach — meaning water can be entered by descending a slope — with a maximum depth of 18 inches of water. It will include slides and play features for children ranging from toddlers up to 5 years old. A lazy river in the shape of a dog bone with an attached bubble bench will have three different slides, two of which plunge into a plunge pool. An infinity pool will have about 4 inches of water for toddlers and young children.

A climbing wall by the pool will allow climbers to dive back into the water after reaching the top.

There will be a whole series of lounges and shade structures, as well as a grassy section and picnic tables.

The interior space includes a large gymnasium equipped and designed for multiple sports, including pickle ball. A walking track runs around the perimeter of the gymnasium.

“The City of Conway plans to charge $5.00 per person per day,” Kelly said in an email. “It’s comparable to what other municipalities charge statewide. We hope to add additional programs to make it even more affordable. Other rates will be determined at a later date.”

FOOTBALL COMPLEX

The new football complex will be near Curtis Walker Park on land provided by the Conway Human Development Center.

The current football fields are in a flood zone on John Allison Road.

The complex will include 10 lighted courts, a concession stand, playground, wading pool, pavilion and walking path.

The costs for residents to practice at the fields will be comparable to what the city charges for practice time at baseball and softball fields, Kelly said.

“The Conway Soccer Complex will be a huge boost for youth sports in Conway,” Castleberry said. “We expect local businesses to benefit from the boom in youth sports.”

CITIZEN-ORIENTED

The idea of ​​an aquatics centre/football complex is not new. In 2010, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce asked residents to think about what they wanted for the town, with the result called the Conway 2025 Plan. One of the goals was for Conway to have a water park in tied with Carondelet Park/Regional Complex in St. Louis.

“If you look at the Carondelet complex, it looks strikingly similar to what the town of Conway is offering,” said House President and CEO Brad Lacy. “Over the past decade, many Conway 2025 goals have been met, but not the Aquatic Center.”

The pool complex appeared in the 2020 and 2021 updates to the Conway 2025 plan. After 1,800 completed surveys, dozens of group meetings with 250 attendees, the final plan included eight goals for parks and recreation.

“Four of those eight goals are addressed by the city’s proposal,” Lacy said.

They include facilities that meet local and regional needs and are able to host tournaments by 2035.

Boards of the chamber, Conway Development Corp., Downtown Partnership and the Advertising and Promotions Commission spent the fall prioritizing 2035 goals into an achievable number.

“I think it’s important to realize that in both visioning processes, citizens led these efforts,” Lacy said. “The stated goals came from the community as a whole and it’s clear that an aquatics centre, multi-sports complex and soccer complex were a priority for many in our community.”

A recent post on the city’s Facebook page generated over a thousand responses with around 450 comments and nearly 600 shares.

“OMG, FINALLY!! I’ve lived in Conway for 12 years now and I’ve often wondered why we don’t have something like this. I’m so excited,” said Lori Salsbury. “How/where do you vote? Is this part of the election? I’m not very political so if there’s an election to vote in, just tell me where it is and I’ll vote for him !”

“Better late than never and it will be a great asset to our community,” said Sharon Reynolds.

Others said the money could be put to better use.

“I would rather see a pay rise for police and firefighters than something [that] may not be usable given the current pandemic,” said Denise Carter.

“Show voters the EXACT amount and EXACTLY how you plan to spend every penny of taxpayers’ money,” Amanda Wilson said. “If you cannot offer accurate and transparent accounting, vote NO!

“You could build the Taj Mahal and someone would complain,” Casey Pruitt said. “I think it looks awesome and I’ll vote a big YES!”

THE NEXT STEP

If the measures pass, the city will immediately begin the process of hiring a contractor and then begin construction, Kelly said.

“The Conway Community Center and Conway Football Complex are scheduled to open 18 months after the general contractor is hired for the project,” Kelly said.

The annual operating budget for the aquatic center and soccer fields, both managed by the City, should be approximately $600,000.

“We plan to use the city’s share of the Conway A&P tax to cover expenses,” Kelly said.

Castleberry said he wanted to assure the community of Conway that the additions will be affordable and the town will be fiscally responsible.

“I’m confident these projects will be something the people of Conway can be proud of,” Castleberry said.

Gallery: Proposal for Conway Community Center

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