The earth has all been moved at Prairie Township's new sports complex and now it's time for Mother Nature to get to work.

Construction on the $1.87 million first phase of the project at 1503 Galloway Road is nearly finished and officials expect the youngest soccer players to hit the fields in fall 2019.

"They're finishing up grading the fields. We hope to be planting grass this fall, and it'll take about a year for the grass to take root," said James Gant, the township's recreation department director. "We hope to get little kids out next fall. They're not quite big enough to tear up the field and then we'll start expanding programs."

Phase 1 includes 10 multiuse fields, two ball diamonds and a concession stand/shelter house with restrooms.

The parking lot, a pedestrian path around the site and the shelter house are done but will remain closed until next year, Gant said.

The trail will connect to Alton Hall School to the north and the Camp Chase Trail to the south; this portion of the project was funded through a $474,315 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The 111-acre site is expected to take at least three phases to fully build. Fundraising for the second part is just getting started.

Phase 2 is expected to cost another $1.8 million and include a second entrance to the complex, additional parking and an adaptive field for use by people with mobility challenges.

Earlier this year, Prairie Township trustees established a fund through the Columbus Foundation, an organization that manages charitable funds, trusts and endowments for organizations throughout central Ohio. Trustees also named eight residents to an oversight board to help guide the foundation's efforts.

There is no tax levy or bond issue in place to provide funding for the sports complex, so the new Prairie Township Community Foundation is expected to be instrumental in raising money to complete the second and third segments of the project.

Trustees in July approved a $25,000 contract with New Albany-based Mollard Consulting. The firm is expected to work with the foundation board through Nov. 30 to develop fundraising strategies.

There was no township money used, but allocating money out of the Prairie Community Fund and the contract with Mollard Consulting both required trustee approval.

Gant said township officials met with Mollard representatives for the first time last week.

"They're going to help us be strategic and help frame everything so we have a good idea of who we should be asking and how," he said.

Board members are also creating a video "to help us educate people on how the foundation works and how we're helping make it a place for everybody," Gant said.

The Freedom Run 5K in June was the first fundraiser.

A pickleball tournament is being planned at the community center, with proceeds benefiting the fund. A date has not been finalized, Gant said.

The board is also considering a golf outing in the fall or spring, he said.

"People are starting to know about the project down in Galloway as a whole," Gant said. "They start to see stuff happening and they're asking questions. They are really excited about the idea of becoming a place where everyone gets an opportunity to play."

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews