Instead of A Sports Complex, Lawton Should Build This
I can't remember how many months ago it was announced, but the Lawton mayor and city council are dead set on building a non-standardized sports complex that hasn't been very popular with the public. In fact, the outcry was so loud that city officials followed the same procedure they did after announcing they might purchase Lawton's failing mall... They shut up about it and worked on it in secret behind closed doors.
This is what is happening with Mayor Booker's pet project, the Lawton Sports Complex.
When it was announced that Lawton had nearly $10million extra from the unspent pandemic money, they asked for recommendations from municipal leaders on how best to spend it.
Recommendations were made for various projects like revamping and fixing our dilapidated stormwater drainage and flood mitigation systems alongside some other badly needed, yet unfunded necessities. Lighting needs, updates to our emergency services and first responder radio system, smaller park projects, and even allocating some of those funds to fuel our badly needed road repairs.
The city council and mayor's office have decided that money would best be spent on the unpopular sports complex.
Now in all fairness, I'll admit, I wasn't as dead-set against it as most Lawton residents are. Would I rather have decent roads to drive on? Absolutely... but people constantly complain about how there's nothing to do in this town for kids, and this is a small step in a good direction... but I also feel our elected officials still suffer from small-town syndrome.
They need to find it in themselves to think bigger.
The City of Ardmore, Oklahoma, is roughly a quarter the size of Lawton, but their ideas on public works are far beyond those coming out of city hall. For entertainment in their small community, they've built what everyone calls The Clubhouse.
It's not just a big gym, it's a complex of fun stuff that does two things. It offers something for every kid to actually enjoy year-round, and it provides an economic boost by making money for the city and providing jobs.
Ardmore's Clubhouse offers things like kid and adult-friendly go-karts, a zip line course, mini-golf, plus a ropes course anyone daring enough is welcome to take on. They also have a sudo-swim park called Water Wars with a public pool, splash pad, and a thing that allows kids to have epic water fights.
Between all of that and the cafe with a legitimately fun arcade, it's no wonder it stays packed all year.
Elmer Thomas park is huge. It's nearly a square half-mile. There is no shortage of space to build all of this because even when they host the biggest events, the majority of the park goes unused. Why are our leaders focusing on improving the tiny gravel parking lot with a $27million sports center that will attract so few people?
Small minds, big hearts. They literally cannot see the forest for the trees.
Elmer Thomas Park has the beginnings of this already with Lake Helen, the playground, and the splash pad... They just need to add to it with attractions that will complement those.
To answer the obvious question, yes. A Lawton "clubhouse" type of place will likely cost more money overall, but as it can be built in stages as separate attractions, it could potentially fund the bulk of the cost itself, paying off any debt incurred. It's practically a free Lawton fun zone for all big and little kids alike.