By MARINA WATERS
Washington County’s athletic complex project is back to the drawing board, leaving the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee to navigate future plans for the site’s facilities.
The CIA Committee met on Thursday, Nov. 1 to discuss what plans could come to fruition on the 37-acre site on Boones Creek Road, adjacent to the new Boones Creek K-8 School. Now that Johnson City has declined a partnership with the county to build a tournament-minded sports complex, committee members said they’re ready to focus on the needs of the school system and the community.
“What I want us to talk about is what is best for the schools, community and taxpayers and is there a better way to do this that doesn’t cost the taxpayers an arm and a leg and we get the fields for the children?”, said Commissioner Phil Carriger, the CIA Committee’s Chairman. “I think right now that’s the goal, the children and the schools.”
Commissioner Kent Harris added that he felt the complex should include what the current Boones Creek Elementary and Boones Creek Middle School sites have, which is a football field, a baseball field and a softball field.
Clarence Mabe, who was the co-chairman of the former athletic facilities task force and a former Washington County Board of Education member, attended the meeting, saying the school system had under-built its athletic facilities in the past, leaving some schools without needed fields. This could serve as a way to correct those problems, he said.
He also said potential tournament use at the fields could bring in money for the county. Commissioner Jodi Jones, however, questioned if there would be enough people in the county, now that the city is out, who have a need for tournament facilities.
“I understand the rationale of building them for the school, absolutely. I know middle school sports really depend on those fields,” Jones said. “The question I’m raising is for tournaments, if there’s enough capacity for that.”
Jones also suggested the committee consider a walking trail to cover the perimeter of the future athletic facilities. She said she felt this could work around the hills on the property, which city officials cited as an obstacle for a sports complex on the site.
Mabe and Jones also said they felt a tennis court would be a good addition to the county.
“When you look at tennis courts at Science Hill for example,” Jones said, “they are packed and they have a great youth tennis program.”
“Boone is the only school in the conference that doesn’t have tennis,” Mabe added. “Crockett is the only school in the conference that doesn’t have tennis. Why don’t they have tennis? They don’t have a facility. If you put it here, you have one for both, plus they could have (tennis as part of the) physical education program.”
The committee agreed to invite the project’s architect, Tom Weems, to the next CIA meeting to discuss the above suggestions along with other potential plans and costs. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 29 at 9 a.m. in the Historic Courthouse in Jonesborough, located at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.