Billy Davis column

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Park property could be win-win for city, owners

This can work. Really.

I’m referring to the potential sale of the old J.P. Hudson Park in Batesville, which is the subject of some current discussion among a few little league officials and City of Batesville leaders.  

Some of them are tossing around the idea that the little league’s board of directors should sell the land to city government.

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This is not a new idea. The city announced intentions three years ago to acquire the land from the South Panola Recreational Association, with plans to turn the shabby acreage into a neighborhood park. That plan fell apart, however, when J.P. Hudson officials protested the city’s action and ultimately acquired the tract from the recreational association.

Under new owners, the swimming pool, fencing and some structures have been torn down and hauled away. But what remains is an eyesore to the neighborhood and an embarrassment to the J.P. Hudson organization.

This column is a naked attempt, after three years have passed, to keep the discussion going until a fair deal takes place that benefits all parties involved.

This is indeed a personal plea. The old little league park, where many of us learned to play baseball, is a ghost of its former glory. Knee-high grass is growing where we once chased fly balls in the outfield.

A strong wind could sweep the rotten roof off the old concession stand, where the Lightsey family handed us little leaguers a post-game snow cone. I always asked for a “rainbow.”

You should visit the old ballpark, if you haven’t seen it, and take a walking tour. When I walked around recently, I understood how old timers feel when they revisit their old country school, or a drive-in theater, and see crumbling walls and runaway weeds.

The old park will never return either. When J.P. Hudson built newer facilities up the street, the two old ball fields began to fade into history. That is the price of progress and so be it, because more than 400 children are playing J.P. Hudson ball this year. That couldn’t have happened on two ball fields.

 Selling the old baseball park to the City of Batesville could be a win-win for everybody, beginning with J.P. Hudson. With the proceeds from the sale, the little league association can attack its remaining debt and pave its ugly parking lots at the new ball fields.

 J.P. Hudson can also shed the responsibility of keeping up the old park and shed the guilt from failing to do so.

The City of Batesville can win, too, since it would transform an eyesore into a quaint park – from embarrassing to enviable.

There are stipulations, of course. Some J.P. Hudson officials want the two baseball diamonds to remain, with the legal right to hold team practices in the spring.  They really haven’t earned that stipulation  – the overgrown fields weren’t even used this year – but a clause to ensure access would sweeten the deal.

City government will likely hear concerns about vandalism and loitering. To calm those concerns, city government may have to close the gates at dark.

I do have one request, too: someone save the old left field scoreboard for me. I spent half my youth looking at it.