April 2, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
"Our vision is that the Columbus Riverwalk project will broaden the use of the land along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway for the citizens of our entire community, stimulate tourism, improve quality of life, protect the environment and strengthen the economy."
-- the vision of the Riverwalk, taken from columbusmainstreet.com
Sports play a lot of roles in our society.
Whether it''s basketball or soccer or baseball or football, to name just a few, sports bring communities together. They unite people of different backgrounds and ages behind a school or a team.
Sports also bring people together at one location.
In Columbus, Propst Park and the Cook Fields are two of the city''s most popular venues for sporting events.
Imagine if there was another near the end of the Riverwalk or at Burns Bottom.
Those two sites and land near the Highway 82 Macon-Meridian exit are finalists for a proposed sportsplex that could include fields for baseball, softball, soccer, and other sports.
Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Executive Director Roger Short said Wednesday that engineering studies are being done on the proposed sites. He said it should be another three weeks before the studies are completed and turned over to the city and the county.
From there, the decision will be made on which site is best for the sportsplex.
Each site has its issues, but it''s my hope city officials look long and hard at the Riverwalk and Burns Bottom.
Both, I feel, would be fantastic options for creating an interconnected downtown that can serve a variety of needs.
Combined with the Riverwalk, a sportsplex would provide wonderful athletic and aesthetic additions to downtown Columbus.
If designed the right way, a sportsplex can be more than a collection of fences, press boxes, and light towers that some believe might take away from the character of downtown Columbus.
If anything, downtown Columbus needs to continue to grow. The addition of several restaurants and the relocation of another has added to the appeal of the downtown.
Imagine how those businesses and others would benefit from the foot traffic of hungry parents, players, and guests.
Imagine how downtown restaurants and businesses could come together to have special "tastes of Columbus" or sidewalk sales to coincide with athletic events at the sportsplex.
A sportsplex intertwined with downtown also could give visitors opportunities -- all within walking distance -- to tour the history of "The Friendly City" and to visit the Mississippi University For Women campus.
The goal in selecting a sportsplex should be finding the site that best brings together everything downtown Columbus has to offer.
The land near the Highway 82 exit might be more easily accessible. It might prevent traffic from clogging the downtown arteries.
But those issues shouldn''t outweigh what a sportsplex interconnected to downtown Columbus could mean to the city, especially in a sluggish economy.
Traffic means people. People need to eat, love to shop, sightsee and relax. Where else in the Greater Golden Triangle area can people go to do all of that?
The addition of a sportsplex doesn''t have to come at the expense of the Hitching Lot Farmer''s Market or any other business.
Instead, the Hitching Lot Farmer''s Market would become even more special because the city could show it off to visitors and help it become an even bigger part of our daily lives.
The Hitching Lot Farmer''s Market also could hold workshops and/or classes about the benefits of buying local produce and schedule them to coincide with events at the sportsplex. Its activities could spark the imagination of a future farmer, gardener, chef, or craftsperson.
Recipes could be exchanged, and foods from the market could be sampled and/or sold at the sportsplex.
The possibilities are endless.
Columbus shouldn''t opt for the easy way out and pick a site for a sportsplex that would become an afterthought and wouldn''t be tied to the center of the community.
The city has a chance to pick a downtown location for a sportsplex that has far more positives than negatives.
There will be difficulties. Thirty-one separate landowners have claims to the Burns Bottom land.
Accessibility to a sportsplex on Riverwalk land might be problematic or create traffic.
But there are plenty of people who are smarter than me who can find solutions to those issues.
With a sportsplex at the Riverwalk or Burns Bottom, Columbus can create a unique and vibrant downtown that truly would be the envy of the state.
Realizing that dream also would satisfy the people who were behind the Riverwalk Project in 1999. Their vision was "to enhance economic growth while attracting tourists and local citizens to use this walk."
Incorporating a sportsplex into the fabric of downtown Columbus would, to take a few words from the columbusmainstreet.com Web site, "foster a sense of community pride," as well as show off one of the city''s best resources, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
Here''s hoping you''ll dream with me.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Commercial Dispatch. He can be reached at [email protected]
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.