Residents outline vision of local sports complex

March 9, 2005

Bulletin Staff Writer

Imagine a multi-use indoor/outdoor sports complex that provides a range of programs and activities for community residents and attracts people from around the region to enjoy those same activities.

That is what about 25 people -- five of whom were high school students -- had in mind when they took part in a public input session about such a complex Tuesday at Martinsville High School.

Leon E. Younger, president of the Indianapolis-based Pros Consulting LLC, conducted the session as part of an effort to assess Martinsville-Henry County's capacity for developing and operating a sports complex.

Ultimately, Pros Consulting will devise a sports complex proposal for the area and carry out a feasibility study.

A $100,000 grant by The Harvest Foundation is paying for the work.

Tuesday night, Younger asked the audience nine questions. Residents' answers were typed and shown on an overhead projector.

Some of the questions were:

What is your vision for types of sport facilities and or programs for the area?
What types of general recreation facilities -- either outdoor or indoor, for both youths and adults -- appear to be lacking in Martinsville Henry County?
To participate in competition, what cities do teams from this area travel to? In what sports? In what complexes?
What sports activities need to be made available in Martinsville-Henry County that are not provided now?
Do you think residents would pay for the cost to develop and operate the recreation facility?
Which governing organization would be the most responsible to develop the sports activities?
While some answers varied according to age and interests, there was some agreement -- a multi-use indoor facility that housed basketball courts, a track, an adult wellness center, a pool, baseball training facilities and a playground for children.

The complex should be located on property that would include soccer, baseball and softball fields, walking trails, golf driving ranges and a skateboard facility.

The complex should be well-lit with ample security and supervision to ensure it remains safe and family-friendly, the audience said.

As of now, local athletic teams travel to Eden, N.C., Roanoke, South Boston, Franklin County and Salem, among other areas, for major recreational team competitions, the audience said.

People suggested the complex be overseen by either a merged Martinsville-Henry County parks department or an independent commission comprised of representatives from both the city and county.

And there were differences over the desirability of paying to use the complex. Consecutive years of double-digit unemployment was mentioned as a difficulty for some residents to pay membership.

However, most agreed that a modest membership fee would give people a measure of ownership and responsibility.

Martinsville High School Principal Tom Fitzgibbons said the community might agree to a small tax increase for the county parks and recreation and the city leisure services departments to help fund the project.

After the session, Younger said he expects to wrap up the public input in April or May and finish a design and the feasibility study in June. He expects to present a final proposal to The Harvest Foundation and the community around August.

Whatever the final design, the complex must be self-supporting with strong organizational partnerships, Younger said, suggesting local governments, public school systems, local hospital, colleges as possibilities. Any entity that would share a common interest with the complex could be a partner.

"This is a great opportunity" for creating a galvanizing, unifying spirit in the community which residents could take pride in, Younger said.


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