When Gateway Village was first announced, developers and Denison city leaders shared a vision of the development’s future, which would feature shopping, dining and retail within walking distance of housing and recreation options. Now, a part of that vision is beginning to take shape.

When Gateway Village was first announced, developers and Denison city leaders shared a vision of the development’s future, which would feature shopping, dining and retail within walking distance of housing and recreation options. Now, a part of that vision is beginning to take shape.


With the goal of promoting activity and wellness for residents of all ages, the city of Denison unveiled plans Friday for a new $14 million multiuse park west of the Spur 503 and U.S. Highway 75 interchange. Texoma Health Foundation Park will feature five baseball and softball fields, as well as other activities aimed at promoting an active, healthy lifestyle.


"I want to pass on the vision that this is something for all ages," Mayor Jared Johnson said at the announcement. "You can go and certainly benefit from the youth sports teams, but the idea is that you can go and also have a green space, a quiet place."


Johnson said talks of new recreation and park facilities in the city date back to the mid-1990s, but the funding was not available. Talks continued about the future of such a project until the council officially created a subcommittee to explore the possibility of a park complex in January 2014. Johnson said city staff and council toured other facilities in the region to determine what was best for the city.


"It was very quickly apparent that the visions of this project must exist for every age of person," he said. "It can’t be a one-hit wonder of one focus. It had to touch all of our residents."


"From there we determined that an entire place of wellness is what this vision needed," Johnson said.


Plans for the site also include four multiuse playing fields that can be used for football, soccer or other activities. These fields can also be split in half to accommodate two smaller games, City Manager Jud Rex said. Other amenities include a spray pad, sand volleyball courts, two playgrounds and more than two miles of hiking and biking trails.


These trails will later attach to more than 10 miles of trail expected to be developed elsewhere in Gateway Village. In the future, this trail system could be attached to the proposed Katy Trail, which would extend between Sherman and Denison.


The project will bring the city together in partnership with the Texoma Health Foundation and Tom Johnson, developer and owner of Gateway Village. Under the partnership, THF will assist the project by offering the city a $7.9 million grant and Gateway Village will donate 65 acres of land, valued at $1 million, and $2 million for site and infrastructure improvements. The final $3 million will be paid for by the city, the mayor said.


Gateway Village will donate the final 15 acres of land, which is currently being used for access for construction in the Saddle Creek subdivision, at a later date, he added.


Incoming THF Chairman Brett Graham said the city first approached THF about a year ago regarding a partnership on the project. This coincided with the foundation’s discussions on how best to launch its ongoing wellness initiative.


"The foundation has invested a lot of money in the community for access to health care to treat diseases," Graham said. "This gives us a platform to launch a program toward preventing disease."


Michael Black, CEO of architecture firm la terra studio, said the project will be aimed at residents of Denison, but will be to the scale that it will have wider reach. "We define this as a community park because it was designed specifically for this community, but I can see it having a regional reach," Black said.


With the development of the complex, Black said Denison will have a facility capable of attracting visitors from across the region, or the state, for events and tournaments.


Rep. Larry Phillips said the development will be an asset not only to Denison, but all of Grayson County by providing quality recreation facilities while also spurring growth and interest in the region.


"If we have these kind of facilities in place, we will see development move into this region," Phillips said.


Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai said industries and businesses often first look for infrastructure — electricity, utilities and facilities — as a primary deciding factor of where to locate, but when comparing similar areas, amenities such as parks, recreation and schools can often be the deciding factor.


"Once you make the cut … then what’s the tie breaker," Kaai said. "It’s the quality of life. The more amenities you have, the more likely you are going to be at attracting those businesses."


Rex said the project will now go through a six- to nine-month planning phase before the 12-month construction phase begins. The park is currently slated to open sometime in 2017.