AP NEWS

Boosts ahead for PepperPlex

June 20, 2016

For years, the Louisiana PepperPlex has been growing in fits and starts, adding a field there, a team here, as leaders sought funding to grow the sports complex off Sucrose Lane.

It looks like the first trickles of cash in quite some time are about to make their way to the fields, with hopes of encouraging more participants to take advantage of the baseball, softball and soccer facility.

“We were able to get a whole lot of repurposed asphalt through an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Development,” Iberia Parish President Larry Richard said. “Bill Oliver was able to work with us on that so we can do a whole big parking lot on the south side of the soccer fields. That’s a huge deal.”

That lot — which will be 60 feet wide and extend some 800 feet — will allow for easier access to the fields.

“Parents will be able to park right up (next) to the soccer fields,” said Scott Behringer of New Iberia, a longtime member of the Iberia Sports Complex Commission, which oversees the PepperPlex. “It will make a world of difference having that much parking available.”

The facility also will be able to access a $100,000 state grant for some improvements and is looking forward to an additional $243,000 in funding when the Louisiana Legislature passes its capital outlay bill.

“We want to do some improvements to the park,” Behringer said. “We will be adding a pavilion near the rear baseball field, and extending the sidewalks for the soccer side out to the Field No. 5. We’ll also be extending about 1,000 feet of fencing along the ditch on the west side, and add a wash-down slab for the maintenance crew to use when hosing down equipment.”

Discussions for the development of a sports complex began back in 2003. After three years of planning and initial construction, the PepperPlex saw its first game in 2006 and gained its first league client, Evangeline Little League, in 2009.

Since then, the facility has become a home site for the Iberia Soccer Association, several middle school and elementary school teams, and the Catholic High School softball team’s Bayou Blowout in the spring.

“We’re a third of the way done on our master plan,” Behringer said. “To finish it would take $11 million, so we do a piece at a time. We’re looking at putting in additional lighting for the soccer fields and adding another field and lights on the baseball side.”

One thing that is making a difference for the complex is that Richard is communicating with the commissioners to see what assets — like the DOTD asphalt — can be brought into the equation to help provide more and better infrastructure for the players and their families.

“I think we understand what they have there and what they are trying to accomplish,” Richard said.

“I had a meeting with them right after I took office and have had many telephone conferences since. Now that I know what they are trying to do, we can all be on the same page when it comes to finding resources.”

Behringer agrees.

“Larry has been very interested in getting us going,” Behringer said. “He has been out here and seemed excited over what we have done so far.”

But it is going to take time and patience if the PepperPlex is going to live up to its developers’ dreams, officials realize.