Ground has been broken at the site of Powell's long-delayed Park at Seldom Seen.

Construction of the first three phases of the $3.2 million park began in late March; a ceremonial groundbreaking was held April 5.

The park is on 23 acres on the north side of Seldom Seen Road, just west of the railroad tracks.

Council in January awarded bids of $1.8 million to Trucco Construction and about $1.3 million to Thomas and Marker Construction.

City Manager Steve Lutz was permitted to negotiate directly with contractors in 2017 after council rejected three initial bids between $3.8 million and $4.4 million.

Contractors have started clearing trees and putting up construction fencing at the site.

"The weather is not cooperating, but construction has begun and earthwork will follow very soon," Lutz said.

Once water and sewer lines are installed, work will begin on a concession and restroom facility, a playground, two ball diamonds and five multisport athletic fields. The park also will include multiuse paths, a wetland area and a 291-space parking lot.

"We spent years talking to residents about the most important amenities in our parks," said Jeff Snyder, parks and recreation director for the last 19 years.

Paths, playgrounds and multiuse sports fields consistently came up in the top three items that residents wanted, Snyder said, adding there is no field in the city large enough to host soccer matches.

"This location covers all of that," he said.

The Park at Seldom Seen will be the largest park in Powell's system and represents a move toward a more active park, as opposed to the passive green space featured in most of the city's parks, Snyder said.

"I've seen everything grow: all of our parks, all of our enrollment in programs," Snyder said. "It's going to be exciting and fun to program for an active park."

It also will be the first to contain a wetland area that is "embraced as a feature" in the park, he said.

An existing wetland will be maintained and fortified with native plants, and a portion of the pathway will go near it.

Snyder's department is partnering with area Boy Scout groups to build bat boxes at the park.

"We're going to really try and enhance it and make it something people want to experience," Snyder said.

The park is expected to be "substantially" completed by December, but the ball fields likely won't be usable until next spring to allow the grass seed to take root, Lutz said.

Council members decided to build the park in phases in 2016 after an estimate for the entire project came in at more than $9 million.

In all, the park calls for nine phases of development, including a substantial portion to house the city's service department.

The department's current location, at 260 Adventure Park, is too small and "outdated," Lutz said.

It is running out of room to store vehicles and doesn't have enough salt-storage capacity, he said.

The park's master plan also calls for a 13,000-square-foot indoor athletic field to be used for multiple sports during the winter and inclement weather.

Initial construction is being financed via revenue from a bond issue approved by voters in 2012. That bond also helped pay for the Murphy Parkway extension, traffic signals and other improvements at city parks.

The Park at Seldom Seen's future phases are unfunded.

"There are future phases for the park, but there is no funding identified," Lutz said. "Anything additional is going to be several years down the road."

An 18-member city task force is examining the city's future capital-improvement needs and possible funding options.

It is expected to report its findings to City Council in June.