Possible sportsplex coming
Everyone from the young to young at heart attended the City of Milton’s Guy Thompson Community Center meeting to let city officials know what they imagine for the future of the center and its city owned surrounding 31 acres. Notably, by Mayor Wesley Meiss asking for a show of hands, half, if not more, of the attendees indicated they did not live within city limits. John Norton, City of Milton parks and recreation director, reviewed a map of the acreage with a few tentative additions, then jumped into taking ideas from the audience. Three additions popularly supported were BMX facilities, a senior community center, a multiple-use facility, and a swimming pool.
The first to mention a BMX course was Kelly Howley. He mentioned BMX is an Olympic sport and leaves a relatively small footprint on the property. Norton said the City of Milton already has a BMX Facebook page for the sport.
When discussing the layout of the 31 acres behind the community center, the engineer working with the city, Ken Horne, said, “The grade difference from the northwest corner to Sanders St is about 65 feet of fall.” This large difference in height means a lot of work to level it, but Meiss saw a brighter side. He said 65 feet of fall in a quarter mile is a perfect location. “You could have ups and downs for that sort of thing.
Bill Madden of Emerald Coast Dirt and Vert suggested multiple types of riding like dirt jumping and a mountain bike loop. Tyler Sparr, a professional BMX rider with the Wonder Wheels stunt team, was at the meeting and agreed with Madden. He said a BMX course would be suitable for the entire family, “not just the extreme side but the casual, leisure side.”
Another benefit of BMX, Howley said, would be bringing in large events. He said the track would bring “a lot of people from a lot of areas spending a lot of money in Milton.”
Brenda Roland said, “Working with seniors for the past 18 years, I’ve heard them say, ‘Why don’t we have a senior center?’” She also suggested adding shuffleboard for seniors.
Richard Collins, a senior citizen, brought up the senior center first. He said, “There’s currently no certified senior center west of Tallahassee,” and suggested putting it directly behind the current center, “where seniors can go all around the county.”
Kris Long said the facility at the University of West Florida has several courts for several sports and also has a track that goes around the top of it. He added such a building could also be used by senior citizens.
Long said with 39 teams playing basketball in the city league, and so few courts at the community center, the teams only have opportunity twice a month to practice. “I feel we’ve done all that can be done in one place.”
Moe Smith, Men In Action Outreach founder, said, “The city can make money holding tournaments,” in a large, indoor gym. A multipurpose room, he said, should also have smaller rooms for aerobics, kick boxing, and dance with carpet and wood floors for a variety of uses. To encompass the idea of multiple uses fully, Smith also suggested a computer lab.
He went on to say, “When I think of a community center, I think families,” but he said right now there is no playground for the children, nor grills.
Meredith McKnight, the cheer coordinator for the City of Milton said, “I’m all about multipurpose rooms. You can have indoor soccer on cold nights.” Right now, she said the cheerleaders have to practice outside and when it’s raining they have nowhere to go. She said gymnastics is a growing skill in cheerleading, and at least 30 girls go to Pensacola almost every day to work with gymnastics teachers. She said with multiple use rooms in Milton, maybe instructors would be willing to come to the community center.
Another lauded idea was including Olympic-sized swimming pools in a new facility. Bobby Williams, a community coach for six years said, “This is a hub, a Mecca for a nice competition pool for schools that don't have one.”
Melissa Hudson, an 8th grader, was the youngest to address the room and she advocated for pools. She said, “A pool would be beneficial for swim teams and little kids, lap pools, a shallow end.” She said the Navy pools have slides and UWF has diving boards, and with a heated pool people could go all year round.
Tara Williams, who coaches with her husband, and Bill Hudson, a drug store manager by trade, both advocated for a pool for seniors. Hudson said with an aging population a pool is a great idea. “It also helps with rehab,” Tara Williams said, dealing with her own injured knee.
While not an addition, several attendees raised concerns over existing facilities needing repairs describing rotten wooden bleachers as “embarrassing” especially with pristine grass. Parking also came up. Long said, “We need parking. With football, traffic is the worst ever. You’ll wait a good hour if you get out of practice late.”
Three other ideas came up without echoed support from the audience, an archery range, a more robust skating rink, and a splash pad. Joel Miller brought diagrams for an archery range and said it would require little maintenance. “It’s family oriented and I was around it when I was young.” Brandy Alvarado with Emerald Coast Roller Derby advocated for not a skating rink but a gym with a floor the ECRD could use to skate thereby leaving it available for other purposes as well.
During the meeting, Councilwoman Pat Lunsford said, “I ask all of you to contact your commissioners. They’re taking everything to the other end of the county. We want all of you to tell them we need help here. They’re not doing anything for us.”
Meiss suggested seeking state grants in addition to petitioning the county for funding. Norton said a survey will be available on the city’s website and Facebook pages for those who may have thought of ideas after the meeting or were not able to attend, which should by now be available. Please take the survey and share it.
Lastly, a breaking item Norton brought up was lacrosse potentially coming to Santa Rosa County. He said his department will be attending a clinic March 21 to learn more about the game. He said he’s also using the clinic to gauge interest in the sport locally and hopes hundreds will show. Meiss said the idea was entirely student driven. “Lacross is the fastest growing sport in the south,” he said. Stay tuned for details on the future of lacrosse in Santa Rosa County.
Continue to follow the Press Gazette’s coverage of the Sportsplex’s evolution from these early brainstorming sessions through more concrete plans. Visit the website as well for an audio interview with Mayor Meiss recapping the meeting and thoughts on funding.
This article originally appeared on Santa Rosa Press Gazette: Possible sportsplex coming