By Martin Couch
The Bryant Parks and Recreation Department is growing by leaps and bounds, according to director Jeremy Lemons.
“Right now, hopefully, we’ll get ready for our big tour,” he said, referring to the new community center at Bishop Park. “We are putting in the carpet on the second floor and getting on a second coat of paint. The final touches are coming at the end of this month with the community center by furnishing it with 300 chairs up there.”[more]
Already, Lemons has been approached by the Salt Bowl committee for a banquet that would seat as many as 1,500 people and the complex will host Fall Fest for the first time.
“The swimming pools are a little off schedule, because we dug it out and the rain came,” Lemons said. “It’s actually going to be an open-glass retractable roof over the pools and those guys will be here next week to get started and it’s anywhere from six- to a two-month process to build that up.”
A 180-slot parking lot will be in front of the complex with 80 more spaces on the side. There will be nearly 600 paved parking spots in the park, including 200 at the baseball fields and 200 at the softball fields.
“We’re about finished sprigging the softball complex and the boys A and C areas,” Lemon said. “Three fields are ready and we will be taking over those fields pretty soon. It will be six weeks on the fences, because we have to bid them out and the two high school fields haven’t gotten sprigs on those yet because of the water that came across them. The D complex where six girls’ softball fields are, two are complete and two of them are being sprigged. The two soccer fields are 50 percent complete and looking good, and the ponds are ready. People are already fishing and the Chamber of Commerce is talking about stocking them for a fishing derby later on.”
Lemons and his staff are extremely busy, but those who tour the park often like Bryant mayor Larry Mitchell, think the state-of-the-art facility will attract many.
“With the hot summer coming on, we’re trying to get the park open for July 4,” Mitchell said. “It will be an Open House, not the big grand opening. All of it is not going to be finished by Family Fest summer concert series. We’ve always had it at Mills Park and moved it to Bishop Park community building, which should be finished by then. We want people to come through, enjoy the festival and see what’s actually out there. It’s going to be outstanding.”
When the park is complete, the membership fee for a family of five (two adults and three children) will be $42; individual memberships will be set a $25; a child under 18 or senior citizens 55 and over will be $10. Memberships includes unlimited usage of the weight room, which will feature machine weights and dumb bells, aerobics and use of the basketball courts as well as the aquatics center.
“I’ve been excited from day one,” Lemons said. “July 7 will be the fourth year and we’ve tried to get into that window that we promised the public, but it will be a whole lot more than the original.”
The city residents of Bryant passed a tax by an unprecedented 61 percent to support the new park four years ago.
“That’s unheard of and we were very excited about it,” Lemons said. “That shows that the Bryant community has people who care about kids and schools. I’m fortunate to be in this city.”
Lemons grew up in Arkadelphia and attended college at Ouachita Baptist University. Afterwards he moved to Mountain Home and took a job as a juvenile probation officer.
“I wanted to work on the front end of giving kids something to do,” he said. “Bryant is a great place to be. I couldn’t think of a better place.”
Lemons says he and his staff want to stay in the Parks and Recreation original office to let the public know they will keep maintaining Mills Park, Ashley Park, Alcoa Park and the others in the Bryant area.
“We want the public to know we are going to keep up with the other parks, too,” Lemons added.
Ashley Park will be a practice facility and used for overflow fields if needed during baseball tournaments. Alcoa Park will be made into an adult park for adult activities like flag football, soccer and kickball and Mills Park will be kept as a nature park with wooded trails.
“We need some parks up Springhill Road, which is the last key for the parks in the city,” Lemons said. “We’re keeping our eye open for land up there.”
By 2012, Lemons hopes to have regional or state tournaments in Bryant.
“We’re kind of taking one small step at a time and hopefully by then we’ve talked about having a big regional and a world series type of tournament here,” he said. “We want to get involved with ASA, USSSA, Dizzy Dean, Cal Ripken and all the youth league tournaments eventually.”
When the aquatics are finished, Lemons also expects many swim meets hosted by Bryant teams.