South Walton is one step closer to having a new sports complex

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SOUTH WALTON, Fla (WJHG/WECP) - A community sports park in South Walton is one step closer to being completed.

Tuesday, Walton County commissioners accepted the lowest and only bid to build the complex. The bidder was C.W. Roberts Construction.

With a $6.1 million budget remaining for the project, the bid offer came in higher than the county expected.

"It started off at $10 million when you factor in the purchase of the property, building of the roads and utility," said Walton County Projects and Programs Manager, Rick Wilson.

And while commissioners agreed to move forward, it was contingent upon working to lower the asking price.

"The board gave us direction to try and value engineer with the bidder to see if we can't get that number more palatable to our commissioners and more in line with our budget numbers," Wilson explained.

But the negotiations don't come without concerns.

Some commissioners said they worry where they'll need to cut to get down to the right price.

One of those cuts could be lighting.

"Our commissioners are adamant that they don't bring a project, a sports park to the south end that doesn't have lighted fields," Wilson said. "When it gets dark here at 4:30 with daylight savings time it's paramount that we have lights on these fields for the kids to play and get activity past 4:30 in the afternoon."

Wilson said the commissioners are dedicated to finding a solution to lighting those fields.

"One of the commissioners suggested working with our area groups to fundraise, to find funding to light these parks, whether it be the baseball group, football, soccer, lacrosse. There are many different organizations down there, pickup ball, tennis, that we may reach out to and see if we can't get them to help fund their specific aspects," said Wilson.

"There are so many different needs on the south end of the county. We have senior citizens that really want pickup ball, tennis courts, and walking paths. Then we have overflowing youth numbers where we are turning kids away from playing baseball and football, lacrosse and soccer so we're just doing our best to make everyone happy and stay within budget," Wilson added.

One commissioner donated a chunk of his district's allocated money to try and help make up some of the cost.

"Tony Anderson has donated $300,000 of his rec-plat fees which will assist with lighting," said Wilson. "So it leaves us with about $600,000, $700,000 short on lighting, but that's where the value engineering will hopefully make up that difference."

Wilson said it's not just the new sports complex commissioners are working on in the county, but also Helen McCall Park.

"They are trying to add a press box and such to the football fields. And add another football field out there," said Wilson. "Again, as one of our commissioners said, we're about 20 years behind in rec-park leagues and fields in this county so this is just an attempt to make up that deficit and provide the citizens with what they need and what they are asking for and our commissioners have show that they are dedicated to doing just that. And so we'll work with them and provide the best product for Helen McCall and the new sports park."