BROUSSARD — New parks and recreation facilities totalling 171 acres could begin taking shape next year in an estimated $20 million project paid for with a sales tax that Broussard voters approved last year.
Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais said this week that he anticipates the city will close the sale on most of the needed property within two months and then begin firming up the design for the parks.
Some easy-to-build components, such as the soccer fields, could be under way by next year, he said, and the remaining facilities could be built out over the next four years, depending on how quickly the city council wants to move.
“I’m of the opinion to pretty much bite it off at one time in three or four years,” the mayor said.
The plans call for a 121-acre athletic complex east of U.S. 90, with tennis and basketball courts, sports fields, walking and biking trails, pavilions and an amphitheater.
A smaller 50-acre park is planned in the southwest corner of town off Heart D Farm Road.
Preliminary plans for that site call for water features, dog parks, pavilions, walking and biking trails, sculpture gardens, playgrounds, outdoor fitness stations and a stage.
The plans also call for a network of walking and biking paths that will link the two new parks with the city’s community center and the existing Arceneaux Park, a 31-acre facility off Main Street that is owned by Lafayette city-parish government.
Broussard officials and residents have long said that the existing park cannot meet the needs of a growing city that has seen its population more than double in the last two decades, rising from 3,213 residents in 1990 to 8,197 in 2010, according to census figures.
The local youth soccer league — South Side Youth Soccer — has seen its roster of players jump from 320 to 920 in the past two years and is now playing on 10 acres of donated land that coaches and parents work to maintain, South Side organizer Kevin Mooney said.
He said a quality city-maintained facility would be a welcome asset.
“We could focus on the kids and the sport instead of cutting grass,” Mooney said.
Langlinais said there should easily be enough tax revenue to hire a full-time parks manager and to maintain the parks.
The half-cent recreation sales tax that Broussard voters approved in 2011 generates about $3 million a year, a figure that will keep rising if the city’s growth trend continues, Langlinais said.
That’s more than the roughly $2.4 million in annual revenue brought in by Lafayette’s 1.92-mill recreation property tax — a city more than 10 times the size of Broussard.
Lafayette’s parks and recreation tax pays less than a quarter of the department’s budget, and city-parish officials are considering asking voters in the spring for a tax increase to fill a recreation funding gap that is now bridged by a subsidy from other areas of the budget.
Langlinais said the next step in Broussard’s project after purchasing the property will be to develop detailed site plans for the new parks.
The mayor said it was crucial to purchase property for recreation projects as soon as possible because available land is quickly giving way to commercial and residential development.
“The acreage would not be here,” he said.
A similar recreation project is moving forward in the neighboring city of Youngsville, where voters approved a 1-cent recreation tax last year.
Youngsville officials have said a 70-acre sports complex near the Sugar Mill Pond subdivision should be complete by fall 2013.