Turf for fields at Riverbend Park delayed; officials said the rest of the work is on or ahead of schedule

Charles Oliver/Daily Citizen-News

Whitfield County officials said they are concerned about a delay in receiving turf for the fields at Riverbend Park, which is under construction near Southeast Whitfield High School. But they said other work on the park is on or ahead of schedule.

Whitfield County Parks and Recreation Department Director Brian Chastain got some unexpected and bad news earlier this week.

He'd been expecting the artificial turf for the fields at Riverbend Park to be delivered and installation to begin later this month.

But now contractors say they won't be able to deliver the turf until "hopefully the first quarter" of 2022.

"I can't tell you exactly what the delay is," he said. "I know it is something that goes into the fiber that makes the turf that has been delayed. I guess it's just the same supply chain issues you hear about on the news. But in any event, it has put them way behind. I have reminded them we have a grand opening scheduled. I'll probably be calling every other day just to see where things are at. I hope we can get moved up higher on the list."

County officials have scheduled a grand opening for Riverbend Park on April 8, 2022.

The park, which is being built on 75 acres of land off Collins Road, is funded by a four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by county voters in 2020. A SPLOST is a 1% sales tax on most goods sold in the county.

The park will have four baseball/softball fields and one FIFA-sized soccer field. It will also have a 30,000-square-feet gym/community center with two basketball courts, two meeting rooms, a walking track, staff office space, team dressing rooms and a covered pavilion on the back side of the building.

Chastain said the rest of the work on the park is on or ahead of schedule.

"The (community center/gym) is going great," he said. "We expect we can open that in March. There's a lot of progress going on. We are painting inside the gym right now. The goals should be hung next week. The bleachers should come in later this month."

The county Board of Commissioners voted in December 2020 to name the gym after Roger Crossen, a member of the Board of Commissioners from 2015 until his death in November 2020 and a long-time director of the Whitfield County Parks and Recreation Department.

"The lights (for the fields) are in," Chastain said. "The concession stands are going up. They are probably two months out from being finished. They started the front entrance on Monday. Everything is going fine except for the turf."

Commissioner Barry Robbins said he is "concerned" about the delay in receiving the turf.

"It isn't something that we wanted to hear," Robbins said. "I think (Chastain) is being cautious. But I'm still hopeful we will be able to install the turf in time to meet our grand opening deadline."

County officials have already had to delay the grand opening of Rocky Face Ridge Park, which they'd expected to hold in September.

"The only thing we are waiting on is the bathrooms," said Chastain. "It's like everything else on the supply chain. It was ordered long ago, and it is just taking forever to get here."

The bathrooms will be in a prefabricated concrete building that will be put into place at the park. County officials had expected to get the building in August. They say the supplier is now telling them they could get the building later this month.

The entrance to the 1,000-acre park is on Crow Valley Road.

The county had a "soft" opening for the park this spring. About 10 miles of mountain bike trails circle the mountain, and bikers are out there almost every day riding.

Numerous Civil War trenches and fortifications dot the sides of the mountain, and the former Grant Farm, where the parking lot and trailheads are located, was the site of two Civil War battles in 1864.

"The combat that occurred throughout Dalton and Whitfield County in May 1864 rivals a number of the larger battles which occurred during the war," said Civil War historian and Dalton attorney Robert Jenkins. "There were between 90,000 and 100,000 Federal troops in Whitfield County and 40,000 to 50,000 Confederate troops in May, and the February 1864 action saw between 20,000 and 25,000 from each side in battle."

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