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City of McKenzie

Questions Raised Over Location of Soccer Fields


McKENZIE (June 12) — The City of McKenzie’s Park and Recreation Board met Wednesday to discuss building a soccer complex at Mulberry Park. Members of the McKenzie Soccer League were in attendance in hopes of encouraging the board to reconsider building the complex at Mulberry.

Mayor Ryan Griffin said the purpose of the meeting was to create a discussion for both sides, even though a previous meeting between the mayor and the parents proved unproductive.

The soccer parents had questions about why the National Guard was no longer in the picture to build the complex near Como. The City responded that the change in command within the National Guard along with realignment of equipment had the Guard stating they no longer were able to take part in the project. In response, the parents stated they had been in contact with the commanding general (Major General Warner A. Ross) who did say they were still willing to participate in the project.

It was noted that retired members of the Tennessee National Guard, David Duncan and Spiros Roditis, were serving as mediators before the communication breakdown.

The Parks Board responded the plans were no longer available and they were just repeating what they were told by the National Guard. Former Mayor Jill Holland added to the record, that when she left office, the “Soccer Plans” were left in Jennifer Waldrup’s office on a bookcase, and that she did not throw them away or steal them as alluded to in previous government meetings.

Multiple parents, especially the mothers, added there were safety concerns about building the complex near Federal Housing. In a move to discredit their concerns, Park Board members attempted to make the Mulberry Park area seem safe. Board member Benji Kee stated he once felt being in Walnut Circle at night was dangerous but he learned over time that was just not the case.

Brian Gilbert stated he grew up in North Park in Jackson and that it was a bad neighborhood. He added that once the area was improved, the crime rate went down and it was a desirable place to live. Later Councilperson Josefina Batton responded that her children play in a soccer league that uses North Park. She continued that there was a shooting that led to the park being shut down in the fall. It was later reopened after the City of Jackson had to increase security.

Another mother said parents have said if the fields are built in Mulberry then they will not allow their children to play. She added that the mothers did not want to be put in a position where they had to worry about their safety or their children’s safety.

The McKenzie Banner Publisher Brittany Martin stated the life experiences for females versus that of males. She also stated that the two facilities do not necessarily have to be married as one project. The Como project could be the first phase of improvements and Mulberry could be a later phase of revitalization done through grant work.

Kee added that building the fields in the Mulberry neighborhood would allow the children of the area to play soccer. Something that might not be afforded to them if the complex was built near Como. He added people need a chance to see the plans and understand what is being built. Not only will multiple soccer fields be built but there will be other renovations to Mulberry Park.

It was also argued by the Board that building at Mulberry Park would be a fast transition and also be considerably cheaper. Kids could play on the fields within a few months versus an undetermined time frame from the National Guard. Parents responded that they have waited five years already, so waiting a few more years to get a complex that promotes growth would be okay. So for the expense, no final dollar amounts were provided for either field possibility.

After nearly an hour and a half of discussion, neither side would come to an agreement or compromise. The construction project was tabled for further discussion at which time the City of McKenzie agreed to reach out once again to the National Guard, i.e. General Ross, and include David Duncan and Spiros Roditis. A public forum was also mentioned as a future possibility.

The next scheduled meeting of the Park and Recreation Board should be July 10.