Why All The Hate For The Lawton Youth Sports Complex?
Most people have had a little time to let the idea of adding an indoor sports complex to Elmer Thomas Park, and the loudest opinions so far haven't been the most supportive. If anything, this proves that you just can't please everybody.
I'll give a little latitude to those that think this will be a gigantic eyesore in the park. Seeing the cities vision transform into a finished product time after time, the expectations are pretty low... Then again, when money is no object and they cut other city services to pay the extravagant bills, the new Lawton police and safety center thing on Gore is just as attractive as the new LFD firehouse out on Bishop near 67th. It's really a crapshoot how this thing will actually look at the end of it.
Here's the thing, most people that are upset about putting an indoor sports complex into the park bring up a good point, it's a park... or at least it's supposed to be a park. In its current "old lawton" way of city planning, it's technically a big ole field. Anybody that has spent any amount of time out there has to realize what a huge waste of space is actually is. Even at the uber-popular Freedom Festival, most of the park goes unused. It's just so massive, even I'd be hesitant to spend any amount of time out there after dark. Besides, if you look up the plans, the sports complex isn't nearly as big as you think it's going to be.
When you read that it'll be placed between 3rd Street and Lake Helen, even I raised an eyebrow in a moment of confusion. 3rd Street is the road into the park for the holiday light thing they've got going on right now, the entrance near 2nd and Ferris. As it swings around, you can either continue on 3rd Street or pull off to the parking lot towards the lake. That no-mans-land gravel pit in that trapezoidal area is where they're planning to place it.
It's easier to see on their own map.
You see, it's not nearly the massive hulking building everyone envisions when they first hear about it.
Yes, we'll be losing the ancient picnic pavilions the city used to actually charge families $150 a day to rent for private parties, but they're run down and decrepit anyway... Good riddance. In fact, I think they should expand it further West. They should take out that water feature that only flows during the spring and summer and only manages to attract the Canadian geese-turned-chemical warfare agents that create some of the foulest smelling algae/goose poop waterslides in this part of the country. Turn the rarely used "amphitheater" stage into a lanai where teams and parents can chill and eat between games.
All the same, why cover the big messy gravel parking area for International Festival vendors since the city already owns a massive and mostly empty building with built-in parking for everyone that could possibly line up to use it? We all know they tried to sell us the line that Lawton needed to purchase the mall to use Sears for military contract office space, but in reality, the space actually needed is/was much smaller. Why can't they reinvigorate the mall putting in a few basketball courts and a soccer field in Sears and Dillards?
Don't get me wrong, it'll be a cold day in hell when my opinion falls in line with the city councils, but this might turn out ok... If the city doesn't decide to inflate costs and let the thing set empty for decades because nobody wants to shell out to play. You think that can't happen, but most of our city leaders are business people with the current trend in government being "make money" instead of the old school "manage money."
Think of it like this... Everyone complains about the postal service costing taxpayers so much, but that's what services do, they cost money for the benefit of all. When the feds start running it like UPS or FedEx, mail will be so expensive to send, it might actually cut down on all the junk mail we all get from insurance agents, furniture stores, car dealers, etc...
While that sounds nice in theory, when scaled to apply to a shrinking town like Lawton, when nice things go unused, what's the point of having them anyway? It wouldn't really be the Lawton Sports Complex if only the affluent had the privilege of using it... It would then be Not The Poor Peoples Sports Complex.
It's hard to say how this story will end up, but I think as voters recover from the last twenty-something years of vicious toxic "If you're not with us, you're against us" politics and move back towards the normal moderate middle, I think it's fair to see this as a glass half full project.