First Meeting of Bridge Advisory Committee Looks at Possible Future Projects as Master Plan Gets Started

By Jeff Toquinto on November 09, 2023 via

If you like what you have seen at The Bridge Sports and Recreation Complex since the official opening ceremony was held on April 12, 2012, you will probably like what you are going to see over the next decade as well.
A big step toward what is coming in the years ahead at the heavily utilized complex was taken Wednesday meeting with the first-ever meeting of The Bridge advisory Committee. The Committee, established by Bridgeport City Council, allows General Manager Droo Callahan a group to bounce ideas off of and get input from as the multi-million-dollar facility continues to grow.
The hope is that ideas that will be helped by the second phase of The Bridge Master Plan currently under way will be fine tuned when presented to City Council for approval. On Wednesday, ideas along with finances, concerns, and the facility’s identity, were part of a nearly hour-long discussion.
The group named Council member Jon Griffith as its chairman among its first items of business. After that, Callahan broke down several topics of where The Bridge has been, where it is at, and where it could be headed.
Where it could be headed is likely of most interest to members of the community. With dozens of acres still available and a $50 million plus facility already in place, programs and new components will be introduced.
However, Callahan said it will be a process like the first decade-plus at the site off of Benedum Drive. And the first part of the process is the second phase of the master plan.
“The master plan is a seven-month process where there will be many times where the community can interact through surveys and open forums,” said Callahan. “It’s not being done in a microcosm. It’s going to be done jointly as a community.”
Even with that, there are ideas on the table, some of which are already in place. One of those is the recently purchased synthetic ice-skating rink with hockey boards that will initially be housed on the grounds of the Benedum Civic Center from December early December into February. Callahan said it will likely be done in that manner anywhere from three to five years there.
After that, the plan is to find a permanent location for the facility on acreage at The Bridge. Once there, the idea is to go from a couple of months to every month. Planning also includes a roof on it as well to be utilized by the community and for tourism-related events.
Other ideas discussed included the possibility of acquiring acreage that is not flat but adjacent to the property that could be utilized for outdoor adventures such as ziplining and high-level outdoor recreational facilities for kids. Things such as disc golf, new dog parks, a go kart track, a site for tubing, and a park for recreational vehicles for those traveling to events at The Bridge are all up for consideration and feasibility. The plan will help bear that out.
Many of those ideas, however, could also be handled by the private sector. Having the private sector take advantage of the traffic drawn by The Bridge would allow the facility to compete more easily to draw events from competition in places such as Pittsburgh and Columbus that have multiple on-site or nearby recreational facilities available. Members said it may not be feasible to have a project like a go kart track and have to deal with, and find the staff to handle, issues such as the maintenance of the vehicles.
“This is where having the private sector handling it would be beneficial for a number of projects that are being discussed,” said Griffith.
Callahan said he has worked with one area developer from the private sector on such a project. The project would be a water park, but details or the scope of that on the private front were not discussed in any detail at the meeting.
Those involved also heard about the ongoing concern about the identity of the facility as a destination sports tourism spot or more community utilized. Griffith said, and the others concurred, that it has to meet both even with it being difficult to do that at times.
“It’s a balance between sports tourism and community benefit.  We have to ride the balance beam to fit them both in there with so many people from our community utilizing the facility and so many visitors,” said Callahan, who pointed out that there were 68,970 visitors in the last 62 days, or 1,112 per day.
Callahan also talked about ongoing projects, in particular the new turf infields on the outdoor baseball facilities. Additional work for the entire “wagon wheel” complex of four fields is also being done with the possibility of additional funds being utilized to make sure everything is up to date more than a decade after operations began there.
While work on the ball fields is already taking place, other ideas mentioned Wednesday, Callahan emphasized, are only concepts at the moment.
BAC members are Griffith, and fellow Council members Don Burton and Clayton Rice. Community members Mark Audia and Steve Sellas round out the committee. The ex-officio members include Interim City Manager Mark Rogers and Droo Callhan.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Droo Callhan showing one of the elaborate outdoor facilities that could be part of The Bridge's future, while Chairman and Council member Jon Griffith talks to the group in the second photo. Parks and Recreation Director Joe Shuttleworth makes a point to the group in the bottom photo. 

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