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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

Cost of improvements at Harmony Sports Complex have almost doubled

$3.7 million project now expected to cost $7 million

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 25, 2023, 7:12pm

Like other municipalities, Clark County is wrestling with cost overruns on its capital projects. On Wednesday, the county council weighed how to move forward with planned improvements at the Harmony Sports Complex.

“We identified that $3.7 million project was now going to be around $7 million,” Parks and Lands Division Manager Rocky Houston told the council during its work session. “Every day we wait, it seems like that number keeps going up, in regards to a lot of our capital projects.”

Since Clark County acquired the Northeast 192nd Avenue property in the 1940s, much has changed. Long gone are the farms, rural homes and mining operations. They’ve been replaced by subdivisions and commercial buildings. But the popularity of the park remains strong.

Houston said the property, which was purchased with road funds, was originally intended to be a gravel pit. Little League and soccer games came to the property in 1982 when the county leased it to the Harmony Sports Association. Today, the complex offers baseball, softball, soccer and ultimate frisbee and features three artificial turf fields. Hundreds of parking spots have also been added since those early days. But not all the parking spaces are paved.

“It has a fully developed gravel parking lot that swallows cars this time of year and creates dust when it is dry here for a few months,” Houston told the council.

In 2017, the council applied for and received a $1.1 million grant from the state to improve access to the sports park, including parking.

“If you’re out there, especially on a weekend as games are being let out, it gets very congested,” Houston said. “Even just with normal operations right now, there’s a key commercial use to the south … that generates a lot of traffic through this area.”

Over time, the scope — and expense — of the improvement project started to expand. What started as the addition of 200 parking spaces grew to more than 630 when the county council revised the project in 2021. The revised project also included a new entrance to the park, bringing the total cost to $3.7 million. To cover the additional expense, the county approved $2.6 million in funding from real estate excise taxes.

Other options explored

Houston said the intention was to roll out improvements in phases, with parking identified as a core need. But as they began moving forward with the design phase, Houston said, staff discovered the costs had ballooned even higher, and Public Works began looking at other funding options, whether to adjust the scope of the project, or possibly partnering with Vancouver, which had received funding for its Northeast 192nd Avenue project.

To bring the costs back down to the $3.7 million already approved, Houston said, the county would need to scale back the project.

“This would allow us to do 200 parking stalls, very similar to that original (scope), and some additional gravel to improve it,” Houston said.

The project would also include stormwater improvements, he noted.

Councilor Gary Medvigy said he worries that Vancouver’s growth and transportation plans could derail or at least severely impact the project.

“The biggest monkey wrench that got thrown into this plan a couple years ago was the city’s intent to push 13th Street through, which was not only going to completely destroy the integrity of this great facility, but it was also going to increase safety issues for parents and children by bisecting that property,” Medvigy said.

Although the city is no longer looking to extend Northeast 13th Street, Houston said it is planning to extend Northeast 187th Avenue down the west side of the park.

“As additional development occurs out there, it triggers that transportation plan’s review and implementation,” Houston noted.

Council Chair Karen Bowerman said she had reservations about cutting back on the parking.

“I get communications from constituents on Harmony,” Bowerman said. “It tends to be along the lines of concerns about the left turn into the complex, concern about the maintenance of the potholes at the facility and the lack of parking spaces.”

Because the project was previously approved, a formal vote by the council was not required. The council did approve the modified scope. Houston said the project would come back before the council when it is ready to go out to bid later in the year.