Work to the soccer fields at Cooper Park and Sports Complex in Springfield has begun as of April 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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By Lillian Durr, for the Hauxeda

Following the project’s kick-off celebration in November 2022, turf replacement at the Cooper Park Sports Complex in Springfield began in April 2024.

The Cooper Park renovations are split into two phases: the first phase focuses on the park’s soccer fields, while the second focuses on the baseball and softball fields.

According to Jenny Fillmer Edwards, public information administrator for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, the staging of the project in phases aims to avoid all of the park’s fields being unavailable for play at the same time.

The first phase has a targeted completion date of January 2025. The general contractor for the first phase is GeoSurfaces, Inc.

GeoSurfaces is a surfacing company based in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, specializing in “turn-key sports surface solutions, from design to installation,” according to the company’s website. GeoSurfaces’s Midwest team is based in Bloomsdale, Missouri.

An aerial view of the Cooper Park and Sports Complex in Springfield shows the sports fields at the 127-acre park, 19 of which will be converted from natural grass to artificial turf beginning in 2024. (Photo by Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

The second phase of the project is in the beginning of the design process. Bids for general contractors are planned to be sent out in August, with construction intended for this fall, according to Edwards.

Design for both phases of the renovation is being led by Springfield engineering and design firm Olsson.

According to Olsson’s website, “Olsson is one of the 75 largest engineering and design firms in the nation. It employs more than 2,000 people and performs work from coast to coast.”

Funding for renovations comes from multiple sources, including ARPA

Work to the soccer fields at Cooper Park and Sports Complex in Springfield has begun. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The Cooper Park renovation has a current budget of $28,524,777, according to Edwards. Of the $28 million, $21,705,502 comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“The ARPA funding is the lion’s share of funding for this project, and it’s coming from multiple sources,” Edwards said. “Some is coming from the state of Missouri, and some came from Springfield.”

Like all ARPA funds, the Cooper Park project ARPA funding must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, or the money must be returned to the federal government.

Funds are only obligated when orders are placed for items or property, or when contracts are signed and executed for services, according to a presentation from the Springfield City Council ARPA Review Committee’s Feb. 15 meeting.

Although all funds must be obligated by the end of 2024, expenditures are allowed through Dec. 31, 2026. As of Feb. 15, $338,973.29 had been expended.

Along with the $21 million in ARPA funding, the Cooper Park renovations are being funded by $1 million in Springfield-Greene County Park Board funding, $5 million in city government carryover funds committed in 2023, and $188,000 committed in March. Additionally, the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and Springfield Sports Commission have together contributed $631,275.

Cooper Park projects aim to serve community and increase tourism

Maintenance workers make their way to the soccer fields at Cooper Park and Sports Complex. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

According to Edwards, one of the park board’s goals for the Cooper Park renovations is to provide state-of-the-art facilities for Springfield athletes.

“The park board wants to serve our local community first and say we can also offer you the best in sports infrastructure and playing surfaces,” said Edwards.

Additionally, Edwards said the renovations aim to ease the burden of traveling for those involved in youth sports and keep money from associated costs in Springfield’s economy.

“We want that money to stay in Springfield; we want to bring people to Springfield to have that experience and make that weekend long investment in our community,” said Edwards. “That’s income for our community, and the parks department is about providing opportunity for sports and recreation, but also we are a part of Springfield’s economy.”

The is the entrance to one of 14 soccer fields at Cooper Park and Sports Complex. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Edwards stressed the impact of economic investment from teams traveling to Springfield.

“We contribute in a big way to other businesses making money in Springfield by inviting these folks to come to town and see their kids play in a tournament,” she said.

The Cooper Park projects’ impact on tourism was also a talking point of Springfield Mayor Ken McClure’s State of the City address in June 2023.

“I am excited to move forward with major capital improvements like the daylighting of Jordan Creek, improvements at Cooper Sports Complex and the Field House and the visioning for Lake Springfield,” McClure said. “These projects will improve our quality of life, quality of place and support local businesses through increased tourism.”

This story is made possible by the Hauxeda’s partnership with students studying public affairs reporting in the Department of Communication, Media, Journalism and Film in the Missouri State University School of Communication. Student reporters work under the direction of Missouri State University senior instructor Jack Dimond.