Business leaders discuss proposed sports and entertainment park

Posted on December 20, 2018 9:35 PM


Business and community leaders plan to get behind a proposed new Logan County sports and entertainment complex.

A group of 17 business and community leaders gathered earlier this month to hear about and discuss the quality of life benefits and economic impact that could come from a park with diverse activities, including keeping a nine-hole golf course proposed for Rolling Hills Golf Course.

Several of the largest employers in Logan County signed a letter addressed to Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick and Russellville Mayor Mark Stratton, urging them to consider the feasibility of the park.

“While we do not know what portions of the proposed plan are fiscally feasible, we do think that a study of initial costs, operating cost and community usage would be a more than worthwhile inquiry by the county and encourage the Logan County Fiscal Court, in conjunction with the City of Russellville, to do so,” the letter states.

Some early proposals for the park include a splash pad, picnic pavilions, a four-plex baseball and softball fields, walking trails, 18-hole disc golf course, volleyball, basketball courts, fishing, playground and amphitheater.

Chris Kummer, director of Warren County Parks and Recreation, told leaders that community input from groups such as the one gathered Tuesday is necessary to make any park project a success.

Kummer discussed the success of Warren County Parks that includes 41 facilities and how they impact the community.

He passed around six pages of organized events and tournaments that happened at Warren County parks facilities in 2017. Their more than 109,000 participants were thought to be responsible for bringing between $2.5 and $5 million to the county.

That money didn’t go in park coffers but to restaurants, motels and other businesses that benefitted from patronage by participants, including some from Logan County. Kummer said Logan County would also see economic benefits from the proposed park.

Warren County parks, he said, provide fun, recreation, health and mental benefits to its users that number in the thousands, on top of the organized group activity participants.

Charlie Ray and Jim Riley, partners in Riley and Son Realtors and Auctions, along with others have been pushing for the project. Ray estimates that a significant number of Logan Countians would be eager to use the park/entertainment center proposed for the golf course, which could be owned and operated by the county and or the city.

Ray and Riley see the park as key to improving the quality of life in Logan County and keeping people in the county, the population of which has grown by just 1 percent since the last census.

Improving the quality of life in the county will help retain families in Logan County.

“This is not a total fix, but it is a good start,” Ray said.

Logan County Schools Superintendent Paul Mullins drilled home the fact that many people working in Logan County don’t live here. He estimates that 40 percent of district certified staff live outside the county.

“It would be nice” if something such as the park would help keep young teachers in the community, Mullins said.

Barry Silvey, a retired educator and musician, sees that other smaller communities have amphitheaters such as the one proposed for the Logan center.

Silvey said the amphitheater could host large regional acts as has been done in the area with stars such as John Prine.

Fred Mudge, retired leader for both Logan Aluminum and R.J. Corman, was on the location decision committee that brought Logan Aluminum – the county’s largest employer – to town.

Mudge said companies look for adequate power supply, rail, favorable worker relations and quality of life issues.

Under his tenure, senior executives were encouraged to live in Logan County, Mudge said.

Now as much as 43 percent of Logan County’s workforce resides outside the county.

Mudge urged the group to get behind the project.

Daniel McCarley, youth minister for Crittenden Drive Church of Christ, supports the project, knowing first-hand how parks can influence lives.

McCarley relayed the story of a young man he mentored and ministered to in Glasgow, all the while playing disc golf at a course there. The young man went on to college and is a success.

“Things like this have made a difference in his life,” he said. “… It could mold and shape their lives and could be an amazing thing.”

Michael Morrow, a community organizer and historian for Logan County’s African American community, agrees on the potential impact.

Morrow said young people who have gotten into trouble often tell him it happened because they had nothing better to do.

“But so long as you keep them busy, they don’t get in a lot of trouble,” he said. “This park will give them something to do.”

Noel Rush, senior vice president for R.J. Corman, the state’s largest short-line rail operator, said he supports the project for the benefit it would bring to his employees who live in the area and the “clear association” it would have with economic development.

“You can count on our support,” Rush said.

Leaders wrapped up the 90-minute luncheon meeting by signing the letter that will be delivered this week to Judge Chick and Mayor Stratton.


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