City, Business Leaders Seek Recreation Funding As Deadline Nears

This rendering shows proposed long-term development of 105 acres the City of Alachua is trying to acquire.

Recreation is big in the City of Alachua, even one of the reasons companies decide to move to the burgeoning community, city leaders say.

And space for Alachua’s recreation programs is at a turning point.

City, business and community leaders are reaching countywide in a last push to raise funds to buy105 acres of open land next to the 25-acre Hal Brady Recreation Complex. The city’s option on the land expires June 30, and the city is still about $250,000 short of its goal.

Countywide support is important to the fund-raising, says Adam Boukari, assistant to the city manager. “Reaching our goal will make a huge difference for all of Alachua County,” he says. “We estimate that 65 percent of the 100,000 people who participate in our activities annually are from outside the city.”

If the drive, called Project Legacy, is successful, the $1.25 million property will be set aside for future expansion of Alachua’s recreational facilities. If the drive fails, the land could become a 200-home housing development.

Danny Gilliland, area president for Gateway Bank, says Gateway is one of the business groups backing the drive because it sees the economic benefit of the project.

“When businesses consider moving to a community, they look at the quality of life there,” Gilliland says. “This project will be a real plus, not just for current residents but also for the future of the community.”

Expansion of the recreation complex will help the economy by bringing in more sports tournaments, such as the Babe Ruth Softball World Series held in Alachua in August, Gilliland says.

Project Legacy is seeking donors beyond the city limits because the recreation program serves far more than city residents, including more than 20,000 people who attend the city’s big Fourth of July fireworks display each year. “It’s Alachua’s signature event,” Boukari says.

The 105 acres at stake currently is used as the parking lot for the Independence Day celebration and losing the land would hamper the event.

But the need for the land goes beyond that, Boukari says. “Our facilities are full all the time. We need to expand to maintain our quality of life,” he says.

The city has been fortunate in bringing the project together, Boukari says. Current funding includes:

  • The property owner, JDT Land at Heather Glen, which  agreed to a purchase price of $1.15 million, a discount from the property’s $2.06 million appraised value.
  • A private donor who provided $90,000 for the one-year option on the land.
  • The City of Alachua, which will use approximately $450,000 from its share of the county’s voter-approved Wild Spaces, Public Places sales tax, which ended this past December.
  • A $200,000 grant the city hopes to get from the Florida Recreation Development and Assistance Program.
  • Private donors, who have pledged nearly $200,000.

Among the business supporters is Freddie Wehbe, owner of the Gator Domino’s franchise.

Wehbe has stores in Gainesville, Jonesville and Alachua. “We need more people like Freddie who don’t live in Alachua but care about the recreation program as a countywide resource to put us over the top,” Boukari says.

 

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