Sep. 23—An estimated 60,000 people have attended events at Dalton's Burr Performing Arts Park so far this year, according to City Administrator Andrew Parker.
"We have, I think, 22 more events scheduled through the end of the year," Parker said. "We are working to make this the premier city to live, work and play (in Georgia), and Burr Park is a key part of our efforts."
Parker and Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Jason Mock spoke recently to the Rotary Club of Dalton.
Parker said one of his "primary tasks" is overseeing the city government's capital projects.
"The current projects list is just over $52 million," he said. "We are tying to get those completed on time and on budget so that our citizens can use them. That ties back to that goal of making Dalton Georgia's premier city to live, work and play."
Parker noted the city parking deck next to Burr Park was recently torn down after a report found significant structural issues. The 76 parking spaces that were under the deck have now reopened.
"We don't know yet where we are going to go as far as building a new parking deck," Parker said. "We are monitoring the use of those parking spaces. Right now, the utilization rate is about 75%."
Parker noted the Northeast Community Soccer Complex at Heritage Point Park opened about two weeks ago.
"We had our first games on Sunday, Sept. 11," he said. "We had, I think, six youth games that day."
The city used about $7.075 million of its share of the four-year, $66 million 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by Whitfield County voters to build two FIFA-size soccer fields as part of the complex. FIFA is an international governing body for soccer. The SPLOST is a 1% sales tax on most goods sold in the county.
Those fields are part of four FIFA-sized fields to open in the Greater Dalton area in 2022.
One turf field is on the campus of Dalton Junior High School and The Dalton Academy. The fourth is at Whitfield County's Riverbend Park, off the south bypass near Southeast Whitfield High School.
"Now, we can support some of these regional tournaments we want to attract," Parker said.
Parker cited a study by Believe Greater Dalton that found 60% of people who work in Whitfield County at a job that pays $40,000 or more live somewhere else. He said projects such as the Heritage Point Park soccer fields and a planned aquatics center next to the Dalton Convention Center could help attract those people to live in Dalton.
The $23 million aquatics center is expected to have a 50-meter, competition-sized swimming pool as well as a 25-yard by 25-yard multipurpose pool that could be used for physical therapy. The city will keep the outdoor pool at the John Davis Recreation Center, which is in James Brown Park.
The City Council recently approved a $5 million contract with Felker Construction of Dalton for renovation of the rec center.
The aquatics center is expected to include spectator seating for about 900 as well as a separate seating area with approximately 500 seats for swimmers. The City Council members have said the aquatics center will host swimming competitions for local schools as well as swimming classes and recreational swimming. City officials also hope it will host regional USA Swimming events.
Plans call for the competition pool to have a Myrtha stainless steel pool liner, which is said to create a very "fast pool."
Parker said he expects work on the project to start in the second quarter of 2023 and to be finished in late 2024 or early 2025.
Parker said city officials are placing an emphasis on improving Dalton's appearance and cleaning up or demolishing blighted buildings.
"I'm preparing a budget request to the mayor and council to double our code compliance staff," he said. "We have two right now. It's all that they can do to keep up."
Mock, who came to the chamber in March from the San Marcos, Texas, chamber, said when he was interviewed by the Dalton chamber board he asked them what their No. 1 priority is. He said the answer was "1a housing and 1b education."
He said part of his mission is to work with local governments and developers to create more housing and with the local school systems to improve educational opportunities.
"We are here to help our economy grow and our local businesses thrive," he said.