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Sports Center on May 10th Ballot

By Joe Starkey



They set up chairs and TVs in the lobby and downstairs in the Emergency Operations Center as a more than overflow crowd came to listen and speak at the Special City Council Meeting Thursday night. The AYSA was even handing out stickers to show their support. Under discussion was a proposal to use 4A funds in a one-time special use as 4B funds for a sports center. The most important point made during the evening is these {{more}} are not funds to be borrowed as the AISD school bond also on the May 10th ballot, but are funds to be taken out of the .5 % sales tax already in place that has been funding DCOA projects under 4A regulations since 1979. NO NEW TAXES! 32 of 35 speakers spoke in approval of the measure. One approved but wanted a traffic study done before final placement of the facility and two members of the Abilene Softball League spoke in opposition, as they feared the facility would “destroy our leagues.” Benefits of the new facility were projected to be 24 new youth leagues – both new sports and new leagues to compliment those now existing, 32 additional local, regional and state tournaments played in Abilene resulting in 300,000 new visitors to Abilene in the first year and averaging 345,000 annually in 5 years and a added revenue to Abilene of over $11,000,000.00 yearly. The hotel tax alone would provide an increase for the 4A funds of over $400,000.00 each year. The total cost of the facility is projected at $40,000,000.00 of which 10 million has already been donated in the form of land and improvements. $15,000,000.00 would have to be raised from private sources by the Abilene Youth Sports Association PRIOR to any use of the 4A funds and also before the deadline given in the resolution. Many of the leaders in the community that are involved with youth sports came to speak. There were 5 teenage boys who graduate this year speaking on what this means to future Abilene youth teams. Three 8-10 year old girls from the Dixie Chicks soccer team came to support it even though there are no soccer fields planned for the new complex. Major points in support for placing the issue on the May 10th ballot came from the medical community of Abilene concerned about the epidemic of childhood and early adult obesity and studies showing Abilene has only a 15% participation in youth sports measured against a national average of over 30% as well as parents and grandparents who have seen continuous increases in their expenses as they travel mostly to the Dallas metroplex for tournaments. Local business leaders also spoke for approval in terms of Quality of Life in Abilene meaning they would have better employees and thus give better service. ACU Sports Director stated that Abilene is “facility poor” and pilot intramural programs sponsored by ACU not only improved health for elementary school children with an 82% participation rate but also showed a 40% decrease in referrals for discipline in the pilot schools.Mr. Petty Hunter told the council and crowd , “We want to produce adults who contribute to the community.” To do this, we need to put children first. When he was growing up in Abilene, they used available facilities and people spoke up to make him the first Black center for Abilene High School. We need this facility because there are many local children who play on teams that cannot afford to travel. Put this on the ballot and give them a place to play tournaments.Vote was 9-0 in favor. Please go to the polls on May 10th and say “YES” to spend 4A funds for a sports complex. No new taxes and a healthy place to play with a strong, positive economic impact on Abilene.

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