Sports complex would provide economic boost for East Gainesville. !


Gainesville, FL. – I am writing this column as a longtime resident of the city of Gainesville. I recently learned of the plan being put forth by newly elected Gainesville City Commissioner Cynthia Moore Chestnut regarding enhancing the Citizens Park complex to make it a recreational multi-use facility that will serve as a much-needed resource in East Gainesville. 

This plan, if implemented, would bring an economic boost to this section of our community through enhanced sporting events and by providing recreation and activities for all our residents year around. 

I also was made aware that sports tourism is the No. 1 reason people come to Gainesville. On average, people spend $360 per event participating in these activities. This proposal is a dream that is long overdue for the community. 

As I examine current facilities within the Citizens Park, I must start by looking at Citizens Field. The city of Gainesville and Alachua County public school system signed a 40-year lease in 1984 for a facility constructed in 1948. This complex has proudly served Alachua County and visitors from around the state for nearly 60 years.

Buchholz High School's David Schmidt (7) makes a catch during the spring football game between the Bobcats and Vanguard High School, held at Citizens Field in Gainesville on May 19.

It is long overdue for a makeover to modernize the site to include enhanced amenities such as ticket booths, concession stand, enhanced locker rooms, enhanced seating and expansions to include a possibility of placing an outdoor track at the stadium. This facility enhancement should be a partnership between the city of Gainesville and the school district.   

The plan also spoke of enhancing or expanding the existing Martin Luther King Center, including a senior wing, new community rooms and an improved fitness center that will offer classes to improve the health of our residents of East Gainesville and the community. This proposal included an auditorium, four outdoor basketball courts, volleyball and soccer spaces, and food truck areas. This proposal will allow our local community and others to engage in sporting tournaments and competitions year-round.  

Commissioner Chestnut specifically mentioned jobs would be created that would bring an economic boost to East Gainesville. It was also pleasing to hear that this proposal is not competing with the Celebration Pointe sports facility; both programs will complement each other.

A game of chess is played during a festival outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center in Gainesville, in 2013

As a community member of Gainesville, I have reviewed many plans for East Gainesville designed to improve this part of our city. We have invested our tax dollars in developing strategies but many have gone nowhere. 

Some of the recent violence in Gainesville can be attributed to a lack of positive activities to engage our youth and young adults. This plan could be one of the solutions to addressing the voids of a lack of activities for this population. 

  I encourage our local community to support and participate in the planning and development of this project. I don’t know the costs of this proposal; however, it can be an economic boost for the community with additional jobs and sporting competitions, and health and wellness for our community. This proposal could assist in reducing violence through structured activities; overall, this concept seems worthy of consideration and implementation.

General Colin Powell once said, “A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” Let’s work to make this concept a reality.

Rosa B. Williams lives in Gainesville. / Rosa B. Williams / Guest columnist

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