Franklin County’s plan to devise a master plan/feasibility study for the future of Lakeview Park is officially underway.
Hitchcock Design Group held its project kickoff meeting Wednesday at the park with the Franklin County Park Committee and several local stakeholders. The Franklin County Fiscal Court voted 5-2 recently to approve a $187,000 consulting contract with Hitchcock Design Group for the plan.
In attendance from the county were Parks Director Charlie Lewis, Magistrates Michael Mueller and Scotty Tracy, Judge-Executive Huston Wells, Planning & Zoning Director Robert Hewitt, Grants Writer Ann Northcutt and IT Director Andrew Tippett.
From Kentucky State University, interim Athletic Director Ramon Johnson and Associate Athletic Director Jackie Duvall attended. Superintendents Houston Barber, of Frankfort Independent Schools, and Mark Kopp, of Franklin County Schools, were there as well.
City Parks Director Shawn Pickens was also in attendance.
Lakeview Park is a county-owned, 132-acre park off Steadmantown Lane and U.S. 460. It is home to athletic fields, the Franklin County Fairgrounds, a nine-hole golf course, a skatepark, a splash pad, a Colonial-era house, the Carter House, which now functions as events space, a disc golf course and a walking trail. It also hosts the Franklin County Fair.
Several Hitchcock employees hosted the kickoff meeting, most of which was used to brainstorm potential future uses for the park. The team also completed an on-site tour after the session with local stakeholders.
Lewis and Hitchcock Senior Principal Randy Royer tentatively agreed for a more community-oriented event to be held in the park on July 17.
Meeting participants were asked to write down their responses to the question, “What is your vision for improvements at Lakeview Park,” then place them on a board for the consultants to categorize.
Several ideas and thoughts regarding the park were mentioned, with most in attendance agreeing on the desirability of all the elements put on the board.
Johnson said that he was excited about the idea of a new large venue being there, something that Tracy and Mueller have both expressed strong support for, but stipulated that it ought to have programming for locals to take part in during the week as well as larger events.
“If we’re talking about partnering and talking about making this park as accessible as it can be for everyone involved, we need to have programming,” Johnson said. “I am totally on board with the idea of having a multipurpose facility, but it has to be functional for everyday use and not just tournaments.”
Mueller agreed, saying that it wasn’t his vision for the park to only build a sports complex.
“I don’t think we’re looking to build some monster sports facility here,” Mueller said. “I think it needs to be a nice balance between a park for our community and people that live here, but then on weekends it’s tournaments that are generating for our hotels, restaurants and other things like that.”
With regards to sports tournaments in general, Mueller emphasized that Franklin County could find its “niche” within the region.
“To me, one of the reasons we chose you all is to look at Central Kentucky as a whole,” Mueller said. “… Let's say there are no lacrosse fields and that’s the next upcoming sport. I think we need to look at the future and not just what’s going on today, though I don’t know what the trends are.”
Barber echoed Mueller, adding that he thinks there are areas within the regional sports ecosystem that Frankfort could capitalize on — even things that large cities like Lexington and Louisville have missed out on.
Hitchcock employees present said that a market study working to identify those opportunities was already underway.
In response to a potential item of discussion about cultural amenities at the park, Kopp said that he believed Frankfort is the only capital city in the U.S. that does not a dedicated performing arts venue.
He also mentioned that he worked in Hardin County when Elizabethtown worked on its sports complex. He noted that when it was constructed, the involved entities didn’t ask for collaboration with universities there or the local school systems. He said that he hoped that wouldn’t be the case in Franklin County.
Kopp even offered to provide his school system’s facilities as a nod toward “collaboration.”
“I’ll pledge today that if we can collaborate and assist to provide the facilities that we’ve already paid for, those two turf fields, to be part of this (we will),” Kopp said. “… let’s all work together. We just want our community to thrive as a result.”
Wells concurred, saying that all entities working in harmony would be the only way the project could work.