By Lynn West/New Albany News Exchange
NEW ALBANY – A group dedicated to expanding the New Albany Sportsplex announced on Thursday the beginning of a $2.8 million fundraising effort.
Serving as a catalyst for the project was a $500,000 donation from BNA Bank, which committee member and designer Sam Creekmore described as the largest such donation in the county’s history. In recognition of the contribution, the Sportsplex will be known as BNA Bank Park.
The money raised will go to pay for the addition of 16 tennis courts and five soccer fields in a heavily landscaped park with pavilion and Freedom Park as the focus. This is all on the 40-acre section of land north of U.S. Highway 78, across from the present Sportsplex.
The project is the result of 30 years’ efforts to replace outdated and provide new sports facilities for the community.
“This is a day some people thought would never come,” Mayor Tim Kent said. “It took a lot of people and a lot of work.”
Sportsplex Expansion Fundraising Committee Chairman Jolyn Cooke told those present for the announcement at the Civic Center, “This will provide an opportunity for residents of all ages to come and enjoy.”
She pointed out the promotional value to the city as well, noting that “more than 27,000 cars pass by on Highway 78 each day,” and more than 100,000 people visited the Sportsplex this past year. She called the addition “a way to help show New Albany in the most positive light.”
Creekmore recalled how excited he was when Mayor Kent asked him to design the project five years ago, calling the site “New Albany’s greatest billboard.” Creekmore’s plans not only call for the landscaping, but also added a four-acre lake with a 100-foot-high fountain capable of ornate patterns and to be lit at night.
The Freedom Park will consist of elements now at the Freedom Plaza, added to and moved so as to be more accessible, especially to veterans.
The city is part-way toward the $5 million price tag for the entire project. “We have $2.2 million now to pay for five soccer fields and 10 tennis courts,” Cooke said.