Proposed $4 million sports complex at Audubon Park ‘Fly’ ignites differing opinions _lowres

Advocate staff photo by DELLA HASSELLE -- Members of Save The Fly held a protest and picnic on Feb. 14 to preserve the area Audubon Park.

The $4 million soccer complex proposed for “The Fly” area of Audubon Park is on hold while the Carrollton Boosters organization discusses possible changes to the project in the face of opposition from residents who want the space to remain undeveloped, Audubon officials said Tuesday.

The delay gives groups opposed to the project time to suggest changes before ground is broken on the soccer field and its associated buildings and bleachers.

Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman said his organization has been sitting in on meetings between the sports club and the open-space activists and that nothing will happen at the popular riverfront area of the park while those talks are underway.

“The project will not move forward while those dialogues are going on,” he said.

Exactly how much the talks could change the plans for the project is unclear.

Forman did not go into detail about the discussions but said they have included talks about putting the complex in another part of the area surrounded by a loop road or moving it to elsewhere on “The Fly.”

“We’re listening, and at the end of the day, we’ll see if they come back to the commission with a proposal for a different project or not,” Forman said.

John Payne, an Audubon Nature Institute board member who has taken the lead on the project for the Carrollton Boosters, said nothing has been finalized but that talks continue.

“We’re just listening to ideas people have on how to make this great project better,” Payne said. “We continue to listen to the concerns that people have and are always willing to listen.”

The controversy over the project, which was proposed by Carrollton Boosters and then approved by the Audubon Commission last year, flared up in recent weeks as people learned the project was coming and began organizing against it.

Opponents argue that the area slated for the complex is one of the few open green spaces remaining in the city that is close to the river and that an artificial-turf soccer field would prevent residents from using the area for more casual recreation.

Residents also have complained they had little opportunity to comment on the project before it was approved by the Audubon Commission.

Carrollton Boosters and its supporters have argued there is a need for more sports fields to keep up with the demand from the 6,000 families who have children taking part in activities sponsored by the club.

The groups involved in the talks have not set a specific timeline for a decision, though Forman said he does not expect it to be an extended process.

“It is a fluid process,” he said. “But since the approval has already been given by the commission, it won’t be a long-term discussion.”

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.