It may not look like much right now, but the Bayou Country Sports Park’s fields in Houma will look sharp once the laser grading process is over. The park is being built in phases and the initial phases are almost complete.

The Bayou Country Sports Park in Houma won’t be completed in 2016 or probably even 2017.

But work is ongoing on the facility, and bit by bit, the foundation is being laid for a complex that seeks to make Houma a statewide leader in tournament play for youth sports for years to come.

The past year was big for the complex – a 12-month stretch that saw extra land acquired and ultimately fields be carved out of the massive 144-acre plot of land off La. Highway 311 in Houma.

Organizers said the project will be a huge boost for Houma’s economy – a facility that will greatly improve the quality of life in the region. It will feature multiple baseball, softball and soccer fields, in addition to indoor basketball, tennis, canoeing, Frisbee golf, a dog park, a jogging trail and other amenities.

Chris Pulaski, a senior planner with Terrebonne Parish Planning and Zoning, said the facility will be unlike anything this area has ever seen.

“It’s going to be amazing. It really is going to be a place that’s going to have something for everyone,” he said. “It’s coming along slowly, but surely. We’re making progress, and I think people are beginning to see that progress and realize that we’re moving forward with it.”

The project is being built in phases – the first phase is just about done – and will be able to be used in the near future.

Pulaski said in the past year, workers completed water sewer improvements for the facility’s fields – work that is completed. He said fields have been carved for five softball fields, five baseball fields and two, full-size soccer fields and one smaller-sized soccer field.

Pulaski said the work on the initial fields is about done and play is expected to be ready on those fields in late spring or early summer. He said the fields were all built using the best in modern technology and draining, adding that rain will seep off the softball fields in a half-hour – regardless of the impact of the downpour.

“It’s all little things,” Pulaski said. “Softball, we need to finish the fencing. The baseball and soccer fields are going through the laser grading process and are both looking really good.”

Terrebonne Recreation District 2-3 Chairman Gary Beeson said the next step will be bidding for the second phase, which will be concession stands and restroom facilities and support structures for the initial phases of fields – a process that is now in the works.

The project is being funded in pieces by capital outlay money, revenue from the hotel/motel tax and the Terrebonne Parish general fund.

Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove worked hard as a state representative to support the project, and he said he will continue to do so in his role as parish president.

Dove said even with capital outlay money being at a premium because of the tough economy, a lot of the project is already funded and accounted for – more than a lot of people believe. He said the project has about $11 million in its coffers, including $7.1 million in capital outlay money. The project’s final price tag is estimated at about $23-25 million.

“We’re almost halfway there,” he said.

“It’s coming along,” Beeson added. “We’re pleased with our progress.”

Of course, once it’s all done, the hope is that the facility will pay for itself and put major money into the Terrebonne economy.

Countless studies have been done throughout the project’s planning, which show the impact that the facility can have on Terrebonne’s economy.

The studies indicate that through large-scale tournaments, the project can pump literally millions of dollars into the area in terms of hotel reservations, restaurants, groceries and equipment purchases.

Dove said the real value is unable to be measured – a moral boost and shot in the arm to the community.

“Teams come here and play, they stay in hotels and eat in restaurants and fill up at stores,” Dove said. “They’ll spend their money in Terrebonne Parish. But it’s definitely a great place, too, for the kids to go. … This gives Terrebonne Parish another quality-of-life program with walking tracks and fields.”

That last statement, Pulaski said, is huge.

He said most people don’t realize how important quality of life in an area is when it comes to the world of business.

Pulaski said the sports park will attract businesses to Houma-Thibodaux, because when companies survey cities to build offices, they often study the quality of life in that community as a way to determine how easy it will be to attract employees.

The park, Pulaski said, is a huge bonus for that.

“That’s a huge plus of this project,” he said. “It’s going to definitely be attractive to businesses, and it’s going to have both direct and indirect impacts on our economy for that reason.”

But with the economy moving at a snail’s pace, there is concern about when it will get done.

“When this project was planned, it was $100 a barrel,” he said, admitting the oil and gas industry is a local worry.

But all is still not lost.

Pulaski said because of the wide array of funding sources, he’s confident that progression will continue. Sure, it won’t be done in 2016 or maybe even by 2020.

But he said that it’s getting there – slowly, but surely, and that makes many in the parish happy.

“The economy will affect our timeline, but we’re still moving,” Pulaski said. “Even with perfect funding and money being no option, you’re looking at two or three years to get this done. The reality here is it’s maybe more like 10 or 15 years. But it’s getting there, and once it’s done, it’s going to be something we’ll all be very happy with and very proud of.” •

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