Mount Airy officials are poised to form a new group to boost athletic facilities, and scrap another formed two years ago which had a major sports complex as its goal.
“We’re not looking for the big-bucks projects,” Commissioner Scott Graham explained Tuesday regarding the proposed formation of a city sports commission, to be considered during a Thursday council meeting beginning at 7 p.m.
Both Graham and Jon Cawley, a fellow commissioner, are tapped to represent the board of commissioners on the new Sports Facilities Commission. It would have seven members in all.
Graham’s “big-bucks” terminology was a reference to the objective of the earlier group that sought to develop a multimillion-dollar facility for attracting major softball tournaments to Mount Airy, while pumping tourism revenues into the local economy. This idea, and the group itself, were the brainchild of a former city commissioner, Todd Harris, who lost a re-election bid last November.
That effort also hit several roadblocks regarding funding, land availability and other issues, and when it last met nearly a year ago, the softball complex had been abandoned in favor of a proposed motocross park.
Harris’ defeat soon after put any such projects in limbo, but commissioners later said during a winter planning retreat that they were in favor of keeping the sports facility effort alive — but with a streamlined group and a revised purpose.
The primary focus now is on enhancing existing facilities for local use, rather than a regional or national approach.
“We’re not looking at one specific project,” Graham added Tuesday. “We’re looking to improve existing facilities whether they’re associated with schools or not.” Along with upgrading those venues, the proposed new group would identify any new ones that are needed, the commissioner said.
Cawley agreed that the commission’s scope will be not be centered so much on new facilities, but how to make what’s already here better.
“There are just not enough baseball and soccer fields,” said Graham, who has been involved with efforts to improve such sites in recent years. Commissioner Cawley also has a sports background that includes presently coaching the varsity baseball team at Mount Airy High School and serving as an assistant football coach.
“There’s just not enough playing fields in Mount Airy now to meet the demands,” Graham said.
Examples of locations where there is space to accommodate more such development include Tharrington Park near B.H. Tharrington Primary School and Riverside Park, according to Graham.
Meanwhile, Cawley said that since he coaches both baseball and football at the high school, he has a special interest in those sports. “I would love to see us improve those facilities.”
Tapped as at-large members of the new committee are city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander, Keith Venable, N.A. Barnes, Richard Loftis and Bryan Taylor.
The seven members, including Graham and Cawley, are half as many as those serving on the original group formed two years ago, the Mount Airy Sports Development Committee. It is to be officially dissolved in conjunction with Thursday’s vote to launch the new commission.
Barnes is the only person considered for that group who also was a member of the older one.
Also at Thursday night’s city commissioners meeting:
• The board is expected to accept a law enforcement block grant awarded to the Mount Airy Police Department to provide surveillance equipment for narcotics officers;
• Special recognitions are planned for Renfro Corp., longtime local domestic-violence activist Helen Worrell and municipal water-treatment plant employees;
• A public forum will be held during which citizens may speak on any city government topic;
• Officials will hold a closed session to discuss matters relating to economic development.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.