City councilman proposes converting part of Love Civic Center into a recreation center

A Paris city councilman asked his colleagues Monday night to consider using a portion of Love Civic Center as an indoor recreation facility.

CivicCenter_SliderSize“There’s widespread interest in an indoor recreation center. We don’t have the money to build something elaborate, and a suggestion that made pretty good sense was what about using the civic center as a rec center also, and have it for a utility building,” District 3 Councilman John Wright said.

“It’s something that we could do for not much expenditure, and it’s something our children would get benefit out of right away,” Wright said.

An item, put on the agenda of Monday’s council meeting at Wright’s request, read: “Discuss and possibly act on an indoor recreation center plan.”

Other council members seemed to be caught off guard when they heard Wright’s suggestion to convert a portion of the civic center into a recreation facility.

“So, it’s my understanding that, in addition to it being the civic center, it would also be used for a recreation center? At various times it would be a recreation center, and at various times it would be used as a civic center?” Mayor AJ Hashmi asked.

“Makes sense to me,” Wright responded.

At a recent meeting of a committee studying a new parks master plan for the city, a number of citizens voiced support for an indoor recreation facility.

“I think we’d be remiss not to explore the possibility that exist out there (at Love Civic Center),” Wright said.

“Building something big an elaborate is out of the question right now without a bond issue, which might not be a popular subject right now,” he said.

Wright’s proposal got an emphatic endorsement from District 1 Councilman Aaron Jenkins, who called it “a wonderful idea, especially for the kids.”

Jenkins has been involved closely with the city’s youth in various sports activities and said during his successful run for the city council in 2012 that one of the city’s major needs was an indoor sports facility.

“I mean, people could use it everyday. I don’t know how we’re going to get (an indoor recreation center) done, but if we do, I don’t want to do it halfway,” Jenkins responded Monday night. “Go all the way with it. I think paris would really do good with it.”

Other council members were dubious.

“I’d like to have some time to digest it and make sure it could be done without any problems,” District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said.

District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson agreed there’s a need for an indoor recreation center, but had questions about putting it in the civic center.

“As far as us going ahead (with a recreation center), I’m all for it. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as far as dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” Frierson said.

“You know, location wise, if you put it at the civic center, I would imagine there are pros and cons regarding the traffic flow and access to it,” he said.

He agreed that “it’s certainly an interesting idea” and suggested some study into the feasibility.

Frierson mentioned that the Visitors and Convention Council runs the civic center and wondered if the council wasn’t invading on that body’s turf.

“I think we all realize there is a desire and a particular need for (a recreation center), and I think all avenues should be explored, including the civic center. My question, and I don’t have the answer, is how is the civic center tied in to the Chamber of Commerce, and what ownership do we have or not have of the civic center,” Frierson said.

Concerning Love Civic Center, the mayor said he believes the city owns the property and has the right “to have something else implanted in it” if it chooses.

Dr. Richard Grossnickle, who represents District 4 on the council, said Wright’s recommendation “is worth exploring,” but added:

“I do have some concerns about how that building might adapt to an athletic use, such as whether there could be showers , because athletes want to shower off after a heavy game of basketball.”

Grossnickle also wondered if a gym floor would have to be added, “as opposed to the existing floor.”

“So there are some issues, but it’s worth considering,” Grossnickle said. “I’m also for exploring fund-raising possibilities for a dedicated recreation center.”

District 2 Councilwoman Sue Lancaster noted there is a lot of sports activities in the vicinity of Love Civic Center, “so that would likely be a good spot, if that building can be adapted. We’d just need to look into it.”

The mayor wrapped up the discussion.

“I think it’s a good idea if it’s doable. Certainly it’s a possible. But I think we have to look at it more closely as to whether it’s feasible,” said Hashmi, who represents District 7.

“So with the council’s permission, I will ask the city manager to look into it and bring back to the council at a future meeting some sort of sense as to whether it’s doable, something short of building a new center,” the mayor said.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.