The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 10, 2012

Sports complex could be ‘economic engine’ for Ottumwa

Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation says infrastructure, community feedback needed

OTTUMWA — A sports complex could be one of the best things to happen to Ottumwa, said Councilman Brian Morgan, but not before extensive research is conducted and community conversations are held.

Brad Little, president and CEO of the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, spoke to the Parks Advisory Board Tuesday night about ORLF’s ideas to develop the city’s park system and build sports complexes.

Little said the foundation has been looking at and traveling to cities similar to Ottumwa for the past two years to get an idea of where they started, how their communities have progressed and how Ottumwa can learn lessons from what they’ve accomplished.

“We’ve looked at cities with river, rail, manufacturing and a long history, who have reached the ‘worst of’ something and managed to pull back and move forward,” Little said.

Some of these cities have included Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Bloomfield, Chattanooga, Tenn., and more.

“Every place we’ve been has said, ‘It’s the water, stupid,’” Little said. “Until you figure that out, until you understand the importance of a river going right through the community, it’ll be futile efforts.”

And it doesn’t matter the condition of the water, he said. The tipping point for these cities was when they realized how to embrace the river and make it a feature, not a liability, he said.

One of the key elements is revitalization, which ORLF has narrowed down to four key areas: Reclaiming Main Street, Riverfront Renaissance, Ottumwa park sports campus and extending Central Park to the river.

ORLF hired Stroud Watson and Christian Rushing, consultants from Chattanooga, Tenn., to lead the “Reclaiming Main Street” initiative.

Elements of this project include studying converting downtown from one-way to two-way streets; the parking lot at the Jefferson Street Bridge and Main Street; streetscape and facade standards and guidelines; Lead Ottumwa Leadership Academy; downtown bus stop and shelter relocation; the intersection of Washington and Main streets; and quiet zones at rail crossings.

Fred Lynn, owner of Lynn Leisure Development, of Orlando, Fla., was the lead designer for the casino project a few years back and has been hired to help with the “Riverfront Renaissance.”

The view from Bridge View Center is the “city’s front porch,” Little said, and downtown Ottumwa is its living room.

A sports complex would fit into this view, he said.

“We firmly believe that youth sports, while they’re not completely recession-proof, are pretty darn near close to being so,” Little said, since parents continue to do their best to get their children to sports tournaments, games and training.

Tournaments coming to Ottumwa would mean an overnight stay or two, and likely more than two people traveling with each player, he said.

“It could be an economic engine for Ottumwa,” he said. “It’s silly not to say a lazy river is a good idea, but I’d rather have the conversation about investing dollars in something that has turnaround now. We’d rather have a conversation about something that creates jobs.”

But right now, said ORLF board member Tom Lazio, Ottumwa doesn’t have the infrastructure to support high-volume sports tournaments.

“Infrastructure has to be ready, meaning beds, restaurants,” Little said.

He said if it’s not here, there are plenty of cities who would gladly compete with Ottumwa to hold those tournaments.

Billy Young said Ottumwa hosted the Ottumwa Open tennis tournaments for 25 to 30 years, bringing thousands to the city who spent money on hotels, restaurants and shopping.

But when Dan Staggs stopped organizing them, the tournaments stopped, said board president Bob Beisch.

That is one of the key elements to something like this, Little said, is creating a base of volunteers who know the processes to carry on once a leader steps down.

“I don’t know where you’re going to find 12 to 20 acres in central Ottumwa,” said Councilman Mitch Niner.

Little suggested that a team could work around that with transportation and separate facilities.

“We want to create synergies, hubs within the community,” he said. “We don’t want them driving all over town.”

Beisch warned that many people in the community he’s talked to are adamant that they do not want sports complexes erected in the parks system.

“There are always naysayers,” Little said. “We’ll let the experts lead community conversations and figure it out.”

Niner warned, though, that it gets under people’s skin when people from outside Ottumwa come in two to three times “and are considered experts on Ottumwa.”

The Parks Advisory Board also approved a revised proposal from Ottumwa Rotary for landscaping in Greater Ottumwa Park just off of Wapello Street near the entrance to the campgrounds.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Pedersen: Spec. Ed. students should count ELDON — If you're going to publish graduation rates, stop excluding some children who are doing well. "In some ways, I think it's a little upsetting to the parents of a child who has a physical handicap or is otherwise [in special education], that th

    April 23, 2014

  • 0424 OTT Pennsylvania construction B&W photo -M -T Penn Ave. construction begins Thursday OTTUMWA — Motorists are advised that Pennsylvania Avenue will be closing for Stage 1 of the Pennsylvania Avenue Reconstruction and Widening Project on Thursday. Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed from just downhill from the intersection with Jefferso

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0424 OTT Lottery addiction graphic -T -L -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 3

    OTTUMWA — At first, George bought a lottery ticket once or twice a week. Nothing big. Spent $1 or $2 at a time. As the big jackpots rolled around, he’d purchase a few more tickets. No big deal, he thought. Soon, playing the lottery became his obsessi

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Interpreter bill approved in kidnapping case OTTUMWA — A filing in an Ottumwa case illustrates one of the basic tenets of the American legal system and its costs. Adem Anota is charged with one count of kidnapping. The charge is a Class A felony, among the most serious and one of only a few cri

    April 23, 2014

  • Van Buren OKs teacher pay hike KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren Community School Board ratified a master contract with its certified staff members recently. Superintendent Dr. Pam Ewell, the Van Buren Education Association and the district reached a settlement which calls for increasing

    April 23, 2014

  • 'Ride With the Clowns' bike event full of fun OTTUMWA — This bike ride is a joke. No, seriously. The 10th annual "Ride With the Clowns" spring tune-up is set for Saturday, May 3, and this fun ride is sponsored by the Ottumwa Shrine Club Clown Unit. "It draws a regular crowd," said Mark Merringer

    April 23, 2014

  • Youth playing with guns panic Fairfield residents FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Police Department received two calls Tuesday from concerned citizens reporting kids with guns in the vicinity of both elementary schools. In both incidents, the guns were actually pellet guns but looked real. According to a

    April 23, 2014

  • The most fun you ever had

    OTTUMWA — Not every child's idea will be possible — but every idea was recorded. "Kaboom" project manager Brenna Hull of the nonprofit group's San Francisco office was in Ottumwa Tuesday. She asked students at the Ottumwa school district what they'd like to see in a playground.

    April 22, 2014

  • 0423 OTT Recycle center color photo 2 -T -M Where every day is Earth Day

    OTTUMWA — Putting cans in the correct bin, saving electricity and adjusting the thermostat are not new concepts to the Ottumwa/Wapello Recycling Center staff. "We try to practice what we preach," said Janice Bain,

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0423 OTT lottery retailers graph -T -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 2

    OTTUMWA — We’ve all heard countless stories of lottery winners and losers. The winners, some of whom hold down multiple jobs, have modest dreams for now. One wants to buy a new home or car, another wants to pay of their debts or give to charity and e

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition