Alcorn backs rec plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2001

How could Alcorn State University benefit from plans for a multi-million recreation complex in Natchez?

Representatives of the university joined a committee made up of city, county and school district officials Thursday to discuss that prospect.

&uot;We’ve not sure how we can fit in, but we’re supportive of the project,&uot; said Ralph Payne, director of public information for ASU.

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The project includes plans for ballfields, soccer fields and a walking track on about 109 acres near Natchez High School known as the beanfield.

The National Park Service owns the land, but federal legislation passed last fall allows the land to be leased to the City of Natchez for recreational use. Park Service officials will tour the site next week.

Both the Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez-Adams School District have joined the city informally in recent weeks in developing plans for the complex.

Supervisor Darryl Grennell, who is also a professor at ASU, suggested that Alcorn’s Natchez campus could expand its curriculum to include physical and recreational education as a result of participating in the project.

Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith agreed and said the purpose of the recent meetings about the complex is to determine how each group could benefit.

&uot;At this point we want to see what interest is there, what each group would like to see out there and try to avoid duplicating any services,&uot; he said.

Joe Eidt III, city recreation council chairman, said a championship baseball field included in the complex plans could attract the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament to Natchez, where it was held in the past.

&uot;I would hope that would be part of the draw of building a championship field,&uot; Eidt said.

Eidt also asked about the future use of Chester Willis Field, a regulation baseball field located between the NHS campus and Liberty Park owned by Adams County.

If the county intends to continue its use as a ballfield, he suggested money might be better used by removing the championship field from complex plans and instead upgrading Chester Willis.

&uot;It’s a fine field,&uot; Eidt said. &uot;It has served it’s purpose for a long time. It just needs to be updated.&uot;

Grennell said the supervisors have not discussed the future of Chester Willis.

Also during the meeting, held at NHS’ multi-purpose building, representatives discussed which property might best be suited to a future natatorium, the complex acreage or nearby property belonging to the school district.

&uot;We really don’t care where we put the pool as long as we have a pool in Adams County for the students and the community,&uot; said Wayne Barnett, director of student activities.

Smith agreed. &uot;I can’t see the site making that much of a difference. We’re all public entities,&uot; he said.

If the natatorium were located on school property, school board member Kenneth Taylor said he was concerned who would manage it and who would be responsible for liability issues. But all officials agreed the location of the natatorium ultimately may be determined by where there is space.

&uot;It’s not that we don’t want it, but do we have the room?&uot; Taylor said.

City Attorney Walter Brown said the group will have to research other facilities to learn how much land area is involved in building a natatorium.