New Orleans — Last year, New Orleans soccer aficionados rejoiced at the news that the city was finally moving forward with a long-discussed soccer stadium in Algiers, but after an initial flurry of work the proposed site reverted to a wasteland of waving weeds.
However, local and state officials say the project has just been delayed, not denied, and residents should see construction begin in the spring.
The Behrman Soccer/Rugby Complex at Behrman Memorial Park is now scheduled to be completed by early 2014, according to C. Hayne Rainey, a communications manager with Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Rainey said the $12.8 million project was delayed while the city and state ironed out some final funding changes that allowed the project to become fully funded faster.
State Sen. David Heitmeier, who helped secure the capital outlay funds the project is using, said residents can be confident that the project has not been scrapped. He said a delay of roughly six to eight months was needed to allow the dirt to settle after site work was completed, and now things are ready to proceed.
“We’re good to go,” Heitmeier said.
The stadium is expected to have a total of five NCAA-regulation sized fields, with one of them serving as a competition field while the others are used for practice. It will have grandstand chair seating for slightly more than 1,200 and bench seating for nearly 3,000, said Rainer.
Officials expect that the final design will incorporate shade for visitors, 60 parking spaces and lighting for all five fields instead of just for the main field, as originally considered. Eventually, plans call for the stadium to have more than 9,000 seats.
The stadium has been considered a key component for the economic growth of Algiers since 1998 and has been championed by a variety of officials and civic groups such as Councilwoman Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson and the Algiers Development District.
Not only will the stadium provide an upgrade to one of three regional parks in the city, but it could become a destination site for soccer tournaments similar to how Gretna’s BMX has become a destination spot for bikers. That would create an economic boost for Algiers, officials said.
It also dovetails nicely with the completed improvements to Gen. de Gaulle Drive and the ongoing Federal City project, officials said. New Orleans Councilwoman Kirstin Gisleson-Palmer, who represents Algiers, said that the children of Algiers, and New Orleans as a whole, deserve a serious, free soccer facility. She said the project is crucial to her district.
“I am very excited about the construction of the Behrman Stadium Complex. This project has faced some challenges since its inception,” Palmer said in a statement. “The current short-term delay is because the state and the city worked in partnership to get phases one and two completed at the same time, which will result in a project that will positively impact the whole region.”