New Downtown Rec Complex Bids Remain Over Budget

New Downtown Rec Complex Bids Remain Over Budget
A rendering of the redeveloped downtown park is shown. Submitted Image

OCEAN CITY – New bids for site construction for the redevelopment of the downtown recreation complex remain considerably over what has been budgeted.

In recent years, town officials have been planning for a major redevelopment of the downtown recreation and parks complex along the bayside between 3rd and 4th streets. The large swath of open space has served many purposes over the years, but is showing its age and is generally unpleasing and unwelcoming aesthetically.

To that end, the Recreation and Parks Department two years ago initiated a process to begin redeveloping the complex. A consultant was hired to redesign certain elements of the park and add new amenities. Those plans have been reviewed and tweaked at different levels during the process, but the town was ready to pull the trigger with funding included in a bond sale for the first phase of the project.

During a work session in July, the submitted contractor bids for the first phase of the project were opened with disappointing results. Just two bids were submitted for the budgeted $2.2 million project, and each were higher than expected. For example, one of the bids came in at around $3.8 million, while the second came in at nearly $5 million, or more than twice what was budgeted.

City Manager Terry McGean suggested adjusting the timeline for the downtown recreation complex redevelopment, putting the project on pause and rebidding its first phase. On Tuesday, four new bids were opened with similar results, although at least one was fairly close to the $2.2 million budgeted. Two of the bids were similar at around $3.9 million, while one was much higher at $4.7 million. The lowest among the four bids for the project came in at around $2.7 million, which was closer to the $2.2 million budgeted for the first phase of the downtown recreation complex redevelopment project. The council voted unanimously to remand the opened bids to staff for review and a recommendation.

The park redevelopment will eventually be done in phases, with the first phase covering the infrastructure for both the east and west sections. Included in the first phase will be paths, utilities, stormwater management, landscaping, lighting, the relocation of the basketball courts, the expansion of the Ocean Bowl skate park and the construction of a new skate park office and restroom.

The second phase includes a new playground in the northwest corner of the complex on the west side of St. Louis Avenue. The third phase includes new tennis and pickleball courts and new restrooms on the western portion of the complex. The fourth and final phase includes another playground on the western portion of the complex, along with exercise equipment.

For the east section, the plan includes an expanded skate park, relocating the existing basketball courts in the area of the park closest to Philadelphia Avenue and an improved inclusive playground area. The east section would be connected to the west section via the raised pedestrian walkway across St. Louis Avenue. There was some early discussion about closing that portion of St. Louis Avenue, but that idea was dismissed.

The section to the west would be less developed and more passive. It includes a vast flexible lawn in the center surrounded by trees for pick-up sports and other events, a playground area, a spot for a pavilion or future temporary band stage for future special events and new restrooms for the entire complex. The recreational fishing areas along the bulkhead would also be retained.

A key element in the overall park complex redevelopment is the expansion of the decades-old Ocean Bowl skate park. The expansion will take the skate park from its existing 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.