Broward Estates Civic Association, Inc.


Long delays just not cricket

Lauderhill, the county and a contractor are in cost-cutting negotiations to make the Central Broward Regional Park project become a reality after a long delay. Meanwhile, cricket players are upset.

The saying goes: If you build it, they will come.
But in this case, no one can come because no one is building it.
The Central Broward Regional Park, a county project planned for three years, promising soccer fields, a water park, football and international-level cricket fields, has been plagued by cost overruns, stalling completion by at least a year.
The contractor has estimated a price tag more than $15 million higher than the $35 million approved by the Broward County Commission.
And Florida's cricket players will continue to wait at least another year for the project to score.
''The delays are impeding progress,'' said Sal Husain, president of the South Florida Softball Cricket Association.
International cricket players are forced to go elsewhere to play the game, sometimes traveling hours to find a cricket field, which often isn't in the best condition.
''There's definitely a shortage of ball parks,'' said Tim Rengen, 55, of Tamarac who plays with the 16-team Florida Southeast Cricket League. ``You make do with what you have.''
The sport, a bit like baseball, features a bowler, like a pitcher, who delivers the 5.5-ounce leather ball overhand to a batsman, who attempts to hit it with a flat bat. Runs are scored by running between wickets -- two sets of wooden stakes, called stumps, 22 yards apart parallel to each other -- in the middle of the field.
The bat-and-ball game, which dates back to 15th century England, is also popular in India, Africa, the West Indies and Australia.
South Florida, with its growing Caribbean population, is increasing its interest in the sport.
About 400,000 Caribbeans live in South Florida, and their numbers are growing. From 2000 to 2005, Broward's black population grew 22 percent -- 34 percent among Caribbeans -- according to the U.S. Census.
Right now, the county, contractor and Lauderhill are meeting to find ways to cut costs in order to get bulldozers rolling at the 110-acre park just west of the Swap Shop near the intersection of U.S. 441 and Sunrise Boulevard. City leaders also plan to use the park for concerts, festivals and outdoor sports.
''It's going to be a great addition to the county and a great asset for us,'' said John Webb, vice president for sports development of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. ``Any acreage in South Florida is valuable.''
To get the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill built, more than $1 million in cost-cutting is being proposed on the multimillion dollar project, according to county records.
Among the extras being cut: trees, paved parking spaces and concrete pavers.
The contractor, Russell-Seawood, a hybrid of Deerfield Beach's Seawood Builders and Atlanta's H.J. Russell & Co., has said that it needed about $15.2 million more than the awarded contract of $35.5 million to build the park.
Since winning the contract in 2004, construction costs have spiked and Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma have impacted finances.
Now Russell-Seawood said that the company may compromise.
''We know that can be done,'' said Betty Masi, managing partner of Russell-Seawood, who thinks if all the parties agree this month, the park could be completed by next December.
Lauderhill has agreed to reduce some costs, such as ditching 171 paved parking spaces for grass parking spaces, saving $105,000. Also, the city agreed to allow the number of trees to be reduced, saving $136,000.
Lauderhill, which is banking on the park to complement new housing nearby, says someone needs to find the money for the park.
''I find it curious whenever the county says it doesn't have the money,'' Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan said. ``They seem to have the money for whatever they want to do.''
Money for the project comes from a $400 million parks bond approved by county voters in 2000.
Some of those involved say an agreement on reduced costs could be ready as soon as Tuesday's County Commission meeting.
Meanwhile, the cricket players remain frustrated.

Posted by sbrooks on 12/12/2006
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