A regional park in Longview, Texas, Lear Park was first acquired by the city in 1998 with the assistance of donations made by William Lear. After the original development of the park in 2000, the park has since grown to 182 acres. Improvements following 2000 and those that will be made in phase five this year will greatly enhance the draw and amenities of Lear Park to both residents of the community and visitors.
In 2000, Lear Park’s original master plan was completed. According to Scott Caron, director of parks and recreation in Longview, “That really got the ball rolling with how to tackle all that was envisioned.”
A comprehensive plan was developed and adopted by the city of Longview in 2015.
Caron explained, “The process took two years to complete with establishing an advisory committee, strategic planning sessions, public meetings, open houses and surveys. This plan provided our mayor, city council and staff with priorities for what they wanted to see within the city. Number 18 on the list of priorities was the completion of the Lear Park master plan.”
Once the city’s comprehensive plan was adopted, with Lear Park improvements noted as a priority, the comprehensive planning advisory committee continued to meet to discuss and review accomplishments. The accomplishments discussed were those projects and plan items that could be completed via the annual budget process. Once the majority of these annual budget projects were completed, the comprehensive planning advisory committee searched for items and projects that could be included in a bond issue.
“The 2018 bond issue was the result, with three separate items: public safety, streets and parks,” Caron stated. “All were approved for a total investment of $104 million. The parks portion was $24.7 million, and Lear Park was $8.8 million.”
The latest phase, phase five, which is to be completed this year, was funded by a voter approved bond issue.
“Previous phases have been funded by other bond issues,” Caron shared, noting another avenue was “establishing a foundation with the purpose of providing the improvements.” Texas Park and Wildlife grants have also helped to fund previous phases.
“There were two primary reasons for the improvements,” Caron explained, regarding the multitude of changes and enhanced amenities brought to Lear Park beginning with its development in 2000. “One is to provide additional space and flexibility for the local youth leagues and groups, and the other is to draw visitors for sports tourism. Everything at Lear Park has been done with our community in mind,” he emphasized. “To provide something for the entire family, from the most active to the most passive.”
These improvements also allow Longview to host regional and national sports tournaments to both showcase the community and generate revenue for the city.
In the summer of 2019, splash pad and pavilion amenities were completed. The design phase for Lear Park then began in late 2019. The project was bid on in 2020, and the city council awarded the project in July 2020.
“The improvements at the splash pad were very well received from the very start,” he mentioned. “The pavilions were rented 85% of the time, and attendance increased substantially. We don’t charge admission for the facility, so it’s hard to have a real accurate number of attendees, but I would estimate we routinely have 1,000 visitors a day.”
Once phase five of the Lear Park project is completed later this year, the park will have 15 soccer fields, four with lights and two with artificial turf; 10 softball fields, which include 200 feet of fencing; six baseball fields of various distances; a Leathers and Associates wooden playground built by the community; a one-acre splash pad; a three-acre lake; an 18-hole disc golf course; and a walking trail that is 3/4 of a mile long. Phase five specifically includes completing two sections of the splash pad; two new softball fields and a concession building; two new baseball fields and a concessions and restrooms combined building; parking for the baseball fields; adding lights to two existing soccer fields; and converting two existing soccer fields to artificial turf.
“We are at substantial completion, and the contractor is working through the final punch list,” Caron said. “We have taken possession of the artificial turf soccer fields and expect everything turned over to the city.”
He continued, “Everyone is looking forward to the fields being complete. With all the amenities in one location, families won’t have to spread out.” The city of Longview has already filled its tournament schedule at Lear Park. Local residents are particularly excited to watch games in their home city as opposed to having to travel to other cities.