The Elizabethtown Sports Park – Jenkins-Essex Construction
- Written by: Ivy Carter
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Kentucky’s Elizabethtown Sports Park finally broke ground in 2010, and the full impact of the project was not lost on city officials. In fact, the city went as far as to say that crews were “Turning the Turf,” not just breaking ground. Crews spent two full years converting 158 acres of farmlands and rolling hills into a state-of-the-art, multipurpose communal athletic complex. The park boasts more baseball diamonds and ball fields than any other sports complex in the region, making it a prime location for major athletic tournaments and sporting events.
Of course, transforming a massive swath of undeveloped land into a mecca of athletic activities required the expertise of a contractor with experience building for the public sector and, more specifically, a contractor that would understand just what the complex meant to the community. Ultimately, the city’s search led it to Jenkins-Essex Construction (JEC), a locally owned and operated construction company with almost 110 years of experience serving the communities in and around Elizabethtown, Ky.
Neff Jenkins and William Essex founded JEC in 1904, and though its earliest days were spent milling lumber the company has evolved to provide the gamut of design-build, construction management and general contracting services for industrial, institutional and commercial projects. Delivering JEC’s promise of honesty, integrity, knowledge and hard work to assure success is a team that numbers around 20 professionals, and the company has partnered with the city’s various public agencies on more than one occasion to deliver superior products at a fair price.
Bring in the Experts
JEC previously joined the City of Elizabethtown’s Police Department as construction manager to build a state-of-the-art police headquarters. The job required the construction of a new 31,000-square foot building and the renovation of 6,000 square feet of the department’s existing station. The project underwent several building material upgrades and subsequent change orders, but the JEC team still managed to deliver the project in just 19 months as originally planned.
Similarly, JEC joined the Hardin County Public Library as construction manager to build a new 18,000-square foot library in Elizabethtown. JEC managed to renegotiate a total of $100,000 worth of finishing materials and still deliver the job a full $75,000 under the architect’s original estimate.
The key is JEC’s common-sense approach to construction, which emphasizes the importance of being upfront and honest with the client. The JEC team promises only what it knows it can deliver, never biting off more than its team can tackle together. JEC’s no-nonsense operational philosophy proved a crucial advantage to the entire Elizabethtown Sports Park undertaking, as the project called for a host of subcontractors that would need to coordinate work to create a logical flow across a 158-acre site of challenging hills.
“Just the logistics of getting around site were a challenge,” chuckles Danna Monroe, project manager at JEC. The park provides a total of 25 fields, including 10 natural turf fields for soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey, as well as 13 baseball/softball diamonds (including the soft surface field). These diamonds are arranged into three quads and one diamond was designed specifically for those with physical disabilities.
Each quad comes equipped with its own concession stand and there is one baseball pavilion serving the three quads, plus a championship soccer pavilion. These provide bathrooms, changing rooms and gathering areas. In addition, fields include lighting and irrigation infrastructure.
The remaining two fields are synthetic turf fields, dubbed “Championship Fields.” These fields can be altered for use by lacrosse, field hockey, football and soccer teams as needed. A running and walking track measuring five kilometers, or roughly 3.1 miles, runs the perimeter of the sports park, and the park is equipped with WiFi so fans can view the games from their mobile devices.
A Cornerstone of the Community
“Building the sports park was really a new experience for everyone involved,” admits Monroe. “Many of our prime contractors and subcontractors had experience building athletic fields, but none of us had ever built them in this kind of volume.”
Nevertheless, the JEC team came to site prepared for anything, having already collaborated with each contractor as well as the architect to ensure a smooth construction experience. Some of the contractors had previous work experience with JEC, but the highly specialized nature of the project attracted a number of specialists from out of town as well. JEC applied its no-nonsense construction management style to ensure both newcomers and old partners were informed and in touch, keeping communication lines open so that the entire team was on the same page.
After two years and $28 million, JEC delivered the park in summer 2012 with a huge grand opening celebration. To be sure, the city took a risk when moving forward on the project, as the city couldn’t book events before the park was completed or be sure of the level of acceptance it would garner. But, as it turns out, when JEC builds it, fans will come.
As of opening day in June 2012, the park had a full season of 26 athletic events on the books, worth a total of $5.5 million to the city, and the preliminary 2013 schedule forecasts 42 events during spring/summer that will host over 2,000 teams with an estimate of over 50,000 visitors. The impressive facilities have attracted the attention of planners for national events such as the 2013 Bluegrass Premier Lacrosse Invitational, which will bring in close to 100 teams from around the country.
Through close coordination with the Elizabethtown Visitors Center and the local hospitality industry, the Elizabethtown Sports Park can now help athletes find a place to stay, eat and play. Transforming farmland and rolling hills into highly technical, modular fields, Jenkins-Essex Construction and its strategic partners have crafted a homegrown masterpiece for athletes throughout the region.
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