A LaFayette Underground article from June detailing the sorry condition of the old LHS football field has generated a significant response from the community that could give that facility a new lease on life. But the field’s second chance may depend on you helping convince the city’s leadership to let it happen.
As noted in our June 24th post, the former LHS football facility – including Patton Stadium, Tucker Field, and the Johnny Cash Band Room – was turned over to LaFayette Recreation shortly after the high school relocated in 1997. In the 13 years since, the city of LaFayette renamed the complex after Ross Abney but did little to keep it maintained, presentable, or safe. The old field presents vast potential for hosting concerts, movies, sporting events, and other community activities, but in its current condition is nothing much beyond an eyesore and waste of space.
Our article received much attention through Facebook recommendations and a cursory link from The Walker County Messenger. Some of the hundreds who read the piece began to discuss ways to remedy the field’s sorry condition, and several began to take action to make those remedies a reality.
Local musician Vic Burgess, Roper engineer Shannon McConnell, and several other interested parties began a campaign to clean up Ross Abney Complex and again make it into a site suitable for local events. They found volunteers willing to do the work and hewed out a plan to host a series of fundraiser concerts at the facility that would help pay for some of the renovations. The first suggested event would have been set for August 13th, the 40th anniversary of the famed Johnny Cash fundraiser concert held on the field.
Their efforts led to a well-written article running on the front page of the Messenger in mid-July, bringing even more attention to the field’s condition. (That piece is highly recommended – be sure to read the insightful comments that follow it at the bottom.)
For the Messenger article, reporter Josh O’Bryant spoke with Burgess and McConnell, but also asked LaFayette City Manager Johnnie Arnold what he thought of the idea. Arnold said the city could only sell the field to an outside group “if enough of the public were to petition the city council” to declare it a surplus property – something he had “not heard any discussions on.”
O’Bryant also spoke to LaFayette Mayor-For-Life Neal Florence. Florence said events could be held at the old field if organizers would request permission from the city council, but he closed the door on selling Ross Abney to a third party because the city “would loose control” over the facility they’ve so carefully mismanaged for the last 13 years.
So that forced Burgess and co. to hold their project until the next city council meeting. Unfortunately the next city council meeting wasn’t being held until August, today in fact, at 7:30 PM. Tonight’s meeting agenda calls for Shannon McConnell to speak to the council, mayor, and entourage about a “fall festival” – presumably one to be held on Patton Field.
The Cash concert anniversary will be this Friday, so it’s too late to get the field cleaned up by then (much less schedule and promote a benefit concert), but we can all celebrate the concert’s 40th birthday by helping McConnell convince the city council to pull give The Ross a second chance and redeem themselves (and the entire community) for letting it go into decline. Shannon just got back from military service in Afghanistan so he should be more than capable of handling any crap the council throws his way – but knowing the citizens of LaFayette back him up would go a long way towards convincing the city’s five councilmen to sign off on his proposals.
If you care at all about the future of the original field, or about the future of the city’s culture and recreational facilities, do your part by attending Monday night’s meeting if you can (7:30 at City Hall), and by calling the city before the meeting begins. The mayor and councilmen all have e-mail, but e-mail is all too easily ignored – so call (706) 639 1501 and try to speak with City Manager Johnnie Arnold or leave a message for any (or all) of the councilmen.
Do it for the memory of Johnny Cash’s contribution to the city. Do it for the legacy of Ross Abney, Joe Stock, and other leaders who cared enough to give their time and money to create sports programs for the citizens of LaFayette. And do it for yourself, for your neighbors and your children. LaFayette deserves to have something nice, a place that honors the past while providing the present with cultural events and activities that we can all enjoy.