Not a dream, but a start
EDITORIAL - We applaud the five members of the District 56 Board of Trustees who, last Wednesday night, made the decision to devote $1.4 million of public money to the upgrading of Wilder Stadium.
Even as private funds were being solicited for a grand plan to bring Wilder Stadium into the 20th Century, we felt upgrading of the stadium was a District 56 - not private donors - responsibility. Some of the plans developed by the private fund-raising group can be translated into what the public money will pay for; other plans are too grand for the amount of money available right now.
We hope the private fund-raising group adds its $100,000 to the $1.4 million District 56 is giving to the stadium project. We wish the City of Clinton would donate to this project. The City has about $3 million in a “recreation fund” that is not building a recreation facility. What better “recreation facility” is there in Clinton than Wilder Stadium?
There is a hurdle in potential City of Clinton investment, though. The “recreation facility” money comes from a tax designed to generate tourism. The money cannot be spent on something residents would use - it must be spent on an attraction for tourists. If the definition of “tourists” can be expanded to “visitors,” it seems logical that the City of Clinton could invest in the visitors’ side of the stadium, or at least in parking so that visitors can be closer to the visitors’ side.
Parking is a pure mess around Wilder Stadium. The private fund-raising group envisioned a formal entrance to the stadium that could have an impact on a road between the stadium and Clinton Middle School and, perhaps, on some current adjoining parking spaces.
While we support the continuation of tennis courts at Clinton Middle School, it could be time to look at developing a tennis complex at Clinton High School. This, we feel certain, could be a joint District 56 - City of Clinton project, especially if a tennis director could be hired. This person could schedule tournaments. These tournaments would attract “tourists” - keeping the spirit, and we hope the letter, of the accommodations tax law in tact.
The City wants to develop a recreation facility with Presbyterian College, but this appears to be going nowhere. The City has no plans to hire a recreation director, much less a staff, so don’t expect to see anything like Laurens’ very popular The Ridge recreation facility in Clinton any time soon. True is, we don’t need what Laurens built (basically, gyms), but some of the “public” recreation in Clinton is in “private” hands, so the use of public funds to upgrade, and operate, these facilities is questionable.
The gym at Thornwell, for instance, could be an ideal Clinton Recreation Complex. Along with the football stadium behind it, and a baseball field and tennis courts adjoining, this is a compact recreation facility going basically unused. All that’s needed is a rec director and a vision.
At Wilder Stadium, the vision already exists. Grand plans for renovation include a two-story formal entrance. First floor would be tickets, concessions, restrooms, team rooms and storage. Second floor would be a community meeting room. Permit us just a small pipe-dream: huge windows looking out over Richardson Field, and tables, chairs and umbrellas out on a portico - a Wilder Stadium “skybox” if you will.
Dreams have to start somewhere. The June 13 vote by five members of the District 56 Board of Trustees cannot be classified as the start of a dream. The $1.4 million will upgrade handicapped accessibility, maybe build a better concession stand and fill some cracks in the stadium’s mortar. That’s maintenance, different from “a dream.”
Still, only a devoted few knew without a doubt that it was possible for the Red Devils to have a great on-campus baseball-softball complex - and it now is there, in brick and mortar and chain-link. One thing’s for sure, doing nothing gets us nothing.