Since March of 2016, the Coppell Parks and Recreation has been working on the long-awaited renovations of Andrew (Andy) Brown Park West and East. The Park Projects Manager, John Elias, has been instrumental in the success of this project, as well as other important Coppell projects.
“My passion is that I like to do things the right way. I don’t like to cut corners or try to do something where you don’t have enough budget and funding so you do it but it’s not done at a high level. I love to do things right even if it’s a challenging project,” Elias said. “We had the resources, the City Council was behind us 100%. They supported it, they funded it, the community approved funding of it, and so we knew we had the money to do it right, and we had a good vision of what the community was wanting and so we were able to do a high-level project without having to cut corners and squeeze budget and all that so that’s the main reason that I came to the city of Coppell.
Yesterday, the grand opening of the newly renovated Andy Brown Park East occurred, as part of the Celebrate Coppell Independence celebration.
Prior to the redevelopment, Andy Brown West was primarily a sports complex with mainly soccer fields and some softball fields. Andy Brown East was primarily a girls softball athletic park. The city of Coppell decided to redevelop the entire Andy Brown Park system because the community asked for a park that had more open space, a place for special events, community gatherings, a place to picnic or throw a frisbee, as the majority of the purpose for those parks were sports dominating.
As Park Projects Manager, Elias’s role was to be the city representative for the project. Elias dealt with the general contractor while constructing it and the engineers and landscape architects while going through the design process. Brad Reid, Director of Parks and Recreation, along with several others, were also involved in the design process. Once construction began, Elias participated in all of the site visits, went to all of the meetings, dealt with change orders and in general, anything related to the project.
Both parks were renovated, and the department moved all the sports out of Andy Brown East and moved them over to Andy Brown West, scraping both parks completely clean and rebuilding Andy Brown West.
Andy Brown West contains a top of the line athletic park of a new girls softball four plex and soccer fields. In contrast, Andy Brown East contains brand new pavilions and is a place for the city to hold special events, like the Celebrate Coppell event that happened yesterday.
Andy Brown West was finished in March. While the trails are open for people to use, the athletic fields are not yet open.
“We’re still currently growing the grass on the fields so we’re going to open [the fields] this fall in late August,” Elias said. “Once we got that all finished, then we moved over to Andy Brown East and that’s where we’ve been working on the last six months.”
Due to the fact that the construction budget was approximately $21 million for both sites, this has been the biggest project Elias has ever worked on.
“It’s a huge project and typically a really big project for us might be $1 million or $2 million dollar project,” Elias said. “Just the size of it and what we were able to create, you don’t get very many opportunities to do a project this size and this nice.”
Throughout the project process, there have been some challenges through the way.
“The hardest part for me was having to shut the parks down and close them off to the community. The people that live in Coppell really utilize our parks and our trail system and we had to shut both parks down for over a year,” Elias said. “The community was very patient and now that’s why I’m excited for people to be able to get in here and see it. The hardest part was just knowing that something that’s used so often by the community [wouldn’t be able to be] used for 15 months but now we’re able to open it all back up so they can enjoy it.”
The non-negotiable deadline, July 1, was planned almost two years ago.
“It was quite a challenge, it was a good job to work on,” Elias said. “I’ve enjoyed working on it and we [made] our deadline, which is to do the grand opening for the Celebrate Coppell event.”
Despite the challenges, ultimately the accommodating nature of the City Council and the community makes all of the work for the park worth it.
“We were able to do it just like the vision was, and all the graphics that we were able to get that done and accomplished. I’m excited for the community to be able to get out and really see it now and enjoy it and I’m thankful that they had the vision to build a park like this,” Elias said. “Not very many cities have a park that is purely a passive park and one that can hold events like this. I’m ready for everybody to be able to see it.”
Elias’s past experience with other park projects such as Wagon Wheel Park, Coppell Aquatics and Recreation Center (now The CORE) and the Coppell Dog Park have helped him succeed with this tremendous project.
“I’ve worked on a bunch [of projects]. I started working for the city of Coppell in 2001 so I’ve been there 16 years and I’ve gotten to work on a lot of good projects,” Elias said. “[The city of Coppell is] a good place to work.”
Elias could not be more proud of how the park turned out, and he knows that the park will exceed the expectations of the citizens of Coppell.
“I knew that [Coppell has] a very high expectation for what their community is and has. We were able to do that here so that's been the best part of it is they were all behind it and they funded it and they gave us enough money to do it right. There’s always something new that’ll come along but [it was] done at a very high level and I think the community’s going to love it.”