March 22, 2014 11:41:19 PM
Local engineering firm Neel-Schaffer has received the American Council of Engineering Companies' top honor for its role in designing the Columbus Soccer Complex.
The firm announced Friday that the ACEC's Mississippi chapter chose it as the recipient of its Honor Award for design and construction of the $4.23 million project.
City and county officials picked the Burns Bottom neighborhood, a blighted area near the Highway 82 bypass leading into Downtown Columbus, as the site for the nine-field facility in 2009. Construction began on the county-funded project in April 2011 and finished just before a September 2012 grand opening. During the construction phase, some 30,000 cubic yards of dirt were moved, 6,700 tons of asphalt was laid and about 11,000 feet of concrete curb-and-gutter streets and sidewalk were installed on 40 acres of a 72-acre parcel, Neel-Schaffer officials said.
The complex also has a football field as well as two restrooms and concession stands.
The Columbus Lowndes Recreation Authority oversees maintenance of the complex. CLRA Director Roger Short credited Neel-Schaffer engineering consultant and soccer complex project manager Kevin Stafford with the facility's success.
"Kevin was the captain," Short said in a press release. "He took this thing and ran with it and was down there on a daily basis and was very meticulous."
Short also praised the soccer complex as a link to both the 2.2-mile Columbus Riverwalk and Downtown Columbus.
"We are using it for athletics, for soccer and football, but I see people down there constantly walking, jogging and skateboarding," Short said. "It has become a vibrant area. One of the administrators with the Mississippi Soccer Association said it was really amazing that we are one block from downtown Columbus and we can walk to shops and restaurants."
In May, the facility will host the Presidents Cup, the largest youth soccer tournament in the state. Columbus Mayor Robert Smith expects 80-100 teams to play in the event.
Lowndes County Board President Harry Sanders said the facility was one of the finest attractions the county and Columbus have to offer.
"This is like Central Park is to New York," Sanders said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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