CRESTVIEW — If city leaders' visions come to fruition, traveling sports teams will play tournaments while moms and dads send their children to swim-team practice before attending pottery or yoga classes in the same facility. Kids will whiz around a skate park adjacent to a park that dogs can call their own, and a pedestrian and bicycle corridor will link downtown Crestview to Twin Hills Park.
Each project has potential to see completion, and little, if any, taxpayer money is necessary.
Family entertainment center
The city’s consideration of a family entertainment center passed through review by Northwest Florida State College’s Institute of Retired Professionals last month. The idea had evolved from its origin as an athletic complex.
Former Crestview City Council President Ben Iannucci III broached the idea of a sports center in 2011 after consulting with Sportsplex USA representatives. The Santee, Calif.-based company operates several multiple-sports facilities as public-private partnerships. Sprawling complexes offer play of baseball, soccer and other sports in one facility. Iannucci saw Crestview as a likely stop on the tournament route between south Alabama and Panama City games. Funding for such a structure could come from a tourist development tax, or "bed tax," on hotels’ overnight guests who are mostly out-of-town visitors. The tax could be as much as 3 cents per dollar, under state law.
Soon, Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Arts and Culture Committee Chairwoman Rae Schwartz suggested integrating art studios, classrooms, a Crestview Public Library branch and a gallery beside locker rooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, gymnasium and three sports fields.
Facilities for dogs and skaters
The community dog park’s rising popularity has motivated area dog lovers to request a similar facility for Crestview. Councilwoman Robyn Helt and Public Works Director Wayne Steele have identified a location in Twin Hills Park’s southwest corner already enclosed by fencing on three sides. Fencing the fourth side, installing water fountains and "doggie toilet" stations, and other improvements could cost less than $20,000, Steele said. Funding could come from the Community Redevelopment District, which includes the park, Helt said. Funds are collected from businesses within the district as incremental taxes earmarked for improvements within the district.
Additionally, youth leaders, student and adult skateboard riders and parents have frequently approached city leaders about providing a safe skating environment. Meanwhile, community policing officers, including former skater Sam Kimmons, have watched as Stillwell Avenue’s rolling hills become an impromptu skate site. The street's storm water gully and concrete culvert overpasses provide challenges for skaters, while the steep incline allows them to build up impressive speeds. Steele and Kimmons have learned that a set of stairs tops the list of items that skaters want, according to conversations with teen skaters at Crestview High School.
Under the council's direction, Steele has begun gathering information to produce a formal proposal for both parks, which CRA money might fund.
Linking downtown and Twin Hills Park
Providing a pedestrian and bicyclist link between downtown Crestview and Twin Hills Park, in Helt’s vision, includes a safe, well-lit footpath from Main Street, under the Ferdon Boulevard overpass, and into the park’s southwest corner. Linking the downtown shopping and dining district with Twin Hills Park's recreational opportunities would maximize the most use of two existing city resources, she has said. Her idea includes historically inspired streetlamps, planters and benches along the foot and bike path.
Helt has said that she envisions parents strolling to Main Street to eat and shop while their children play at Twin Hills Park’s skate park or ball fields. Pharmacy students at Florida A&M University's Rural Diversity Healthcare Center could take their lunch to the park to eat and study outdoors. During downtown festivals, a pedestrian link to the park's parking also is beneficial, she has said. Add picnic tables and shelters to southwest Twin Hills Park’s underused portion, couple it with proposed skate and dog parks on the north side, and link it with downtown's resources, and "we, I feel, have the potential to capitalize on the properties we currently have," Helt has said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.