A public awareness campaign will kick off Tuesday to promote the renewal of the city’s 1 percent sales tax and a bond issue for the Searcy Sports Complex renovations that residents will have an opportunity to vote on in a special election Feb. 9.

“There’s an official committee called Vote for Searcy Committee that’s been working since last fall to put together a plan and a campaign to help spread the word of the special election,” said Mat Faulkner, president and chief idea officer at Think Idea Studio, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Searcy Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission. “The hub of all the information is at voteforsearcy.com.

“We have a Powerpoint presentation for some town hall meetings that the mayor is going to be facilitating starting in the next week or two. We have got yard signs that will be all over town, brochures, posters, social media; it’s a fairly robust campaign to get the word out.”

Faulkner said his agency was hired by the Vote for Searcy Committee to produce the campaign. Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne said the Searcy Regional Economic Development Corp. employed Think Idea Studio to do the promotional campaign work and it is not yet known how much it cost them.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to do that,” Faulkner said of the campaign. “You will start seeing a whole lot of images on social media and around town of people holding up two fingers, and the reason for that is because there is two issues on the ballot and we want the community to consider voting for both.”

He said a lot of the revenue from the renewal of the 1-percent sales and use tax “goes for ongoing expenses that the city has as well as future improvements.” The eight-year tax was pass by voters in 2014.

Some of the improvements the city is touting from the tax include the indoor swim center, fire station on Moore Avenue, Holiday of Lights, softball concession and press box, Rialto Theater renovations, drainage, street resurfacing, police vehicles, a new fire truck, sidearm and overhead trash trucks, Humane Society of Searcy additions and the new Searcy Information Technology Department building.

Potential community impact projects listed on some of the campaign materials include the possibility of economic development, a new community center, the addition of an outdoor water park to the swim center, the development of Riverside Park for outdoor activities and bike trails and an expanded and improved library.

With the bond issue, Faulkner mentioned the renovations for sports complex, which is being promoted as the Searcy SportsPlex, could draw a lot of people to the community through tournaments, “not just for outsiders but also for our kiddos, too.”

A&P Commission Chairman Chris Howell said “this is a huge vote for Searcy.” He encouraged all A&P commissioners to get a sign and one for their neighbors to put up to promote voting for the two issues.

In a promotional brochure, the idea of Searcy as a tournament destination is being pushed.

“By voting for the sportsplex project, the city of Searcy will be able to issue a maximum of $14,195,000 in capital improvement bonds to develop a first-class baseball and softball complex conducive to attracting tournaments, as well as improvements to the soccer complex,” the brochure stated.

Osborne said $14,195,000 is just the maximum amount of bonds that could be issued. “They are trying to do all that they can out there to do the ball fields, to turf them, fence them, the dugouts, and just that part was $8.5 million,” he said.

It is stressed that this is not a “new tax” or a tax increase because any bonds issued would be paid by advertising and promotions tax revenue. The A&P tax (1 percent on prepared food and 3 percent on temporary lodging) was passed in 2019 by the Searcy City Council.

It also stated that this is a vote to designate funds for this project to improve quality of life and positively impact tourism and economic development through attracting visitors to Searcy.

The sportsplex improvements would include eight turf baseball/softball fields, turf batting cages, black vinyl-coated fencing, new dugouts, bleachers and score booths, additional concession stands and restrooms, drainage and ditch improvements, about 700 new parking spots, foul poles and LED lighting, new scoreboards, landscaping, sodding and trees, concrete curb and gutter and improved walkways and lighting.

“Having one of the premier ballpark facilities in the state will just be a huge thing for Searcy and the whole area,” Faulkner said.

In August, conceptual drawings of a Searcy SportsPlex were unveiled at a commission meeting.

At that meeting, City Attorney Buck Gibson said getting the bond issue “is simply a way to leverage money that’s already being collected to provide a big project.”

Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne said, “We are not asking for anything anybody is not paying already. This is just giving us the money to work with and finance it instead of trying to piece it together a little bit at a time. This just gives us the influx of a large amount of money to do it all and do it at the same time.”

Howell in a past meeting said that with the turf fields, it has been said that it can rain 4 inches an hour and as soon as it stops raining “you can be on those fields playing which will put us at a big advantage in the tournament world in hosting tournaments because chances are you are going to get to play.”

Asked if he and others involved in the Searcy Recreational Sports League are excited about the bond issue, league Director Rigel Page said, “Yes, we are. We hope all that is going to go through OK because it will bring a ton of people in. I have got travel ball directors for tournaments practically begging me to come here and let them know they can have the tournaments if we get that facility. If it passes, it’s going to bring a lot of people in.”

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