February 11, 2009
As a new resident of Columbus, yesterday''s public meeting about plans for a new soccer sportsplex and community center left me a little confused.
No one in the audience doubted the need for a new soccer complex, replacing the poorly designed and cramped fields behind Joe Cook Elementary now in use.
No one was against a new multipurpose building, which would give seniors a place to gather for activities, and give youths a place to play indoor sports, such as basketball.
Speaker after speaker stated the need for our leaders to act decisively to address the lack of decent soccer, softball, basketball and senior-citizen facilities in Columbus.
Council members and supervisors read letters and e-mails from their constituents, who were unanimous in their belief that new facilities are needed.
Yet despite all this agreement, the same plans have been in the talking stages for the past four years.
Whatever the reasons for the delay, the city and county hopefully came away from last night''s meeting ready to move forward on this important piece of Columbus'' future.
And, with luck, they were inspired by the citizens who weighed in during the meeting, among them former rec board member Leon Ellis and developer Mark Castleberry, who urged the leaders to aim high. Don''t build something that''s just a little better than what we have now -- build something truly excellent, something that locals can be proud of and can serve as a beacon for new residents. If you can''t build it tomorrow, at least settle on a plan and work toward it.
As one of those new residents (with two kids of youth-soccer age), I enjoyed hearing that.
Castleberry and others pointed out that there are three things leaders should consider: The need for facilities, a location to put them, and the money to fund them.
There clearly is a need -- that much was clear at last night''s meeting.
Leaders are scouting for land now, and they should resolve to settle on locations in a decisive way, and endeavor to gain the land for a fair price.
As for funding, there have been a few ideas, including a bond issue. The county and city would split the cost 50/50. The fact that the facilities are needed, that they would bring in tax dollars from tournaments and other visitors, that they would increase Columbus'' visibility around the state and region, are compelling and convincing reasons to support a bond measure -- not to mention the rise in local property values that would likely result from having world-class facilities in the city.
What is needed now is more of what we saw yesterday -- city and county leaders coming together to move the project forward.
With the economy slowing down, now is the time to shore up what we have, as Link director Joe Higgins has told various civic groups in the past few weeks. Improving the quality of life in the city is the best way to not just attract new residents and businesses, but to keep the ones that are already here. Top-notch recreational facilities are an important piece of that puzzle.
After four years of talk, it''s time to act.
Steve Mullen is the managing editor of The Commercial Dispatch. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.
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