By Joel Hall
On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with plans to build a new recreation center in District 3, the district of Commissioner Wole Ralph.
The future Gerald Matthews Sports Complex will be built at 1935 McDonough Road in Hampton.
While a site for a recreation center in District 4 -- Commissioner Michael Edmondson's district -- was not approved, the board voted to authorize Carter Goble & Lee, a strategic planing firm, to locate a suitable site.
With the process of finding a contractor to start the project underway, the Gerald Matthews Sports Complex, when built, will bring the BOC one recreation center closer to its promise of completing six recreation centers before the end of the $240 million, 2003 Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). If built before the center slated for Edmondson's district is finish, the sports complex will be the fourth recreation center constructed using SPLOST funds.
Ralph said the approval of the center is a significant step forward for the county and the residents of District 3.
"This has been a critical issue as it relates to the SPLOST," Ralph said during Tuesday night's meeting. "I thank the board members for being supportive of this motion and moving forward on that rec center. It's certainly something that the citizens in that district have been waiting on for a very long time.
"This facility will allow us to do a number of things, give our young people a place to meet after school, give our community a place to meet," Ralph continued. "It will be an incredible addition to the Gerald Matthews Park. I look forward to the day that we can officially break ground."
The Clayton County Wide Homeowners Association is one of several groups which have pressed the BOC to move forward with building more recreation centers. Organization co-founder Synamon Baldwin praised Ralph for his persistence in the matter.
"Our children actually have to play in the streets with their basketball goals, so there is definitely a need," said Baldwin.
In the past, BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell and Ralph clashed on the location and timing of the Gerald Matthews Sports Complex. Ralph has accused the board of twice delaying the start of the recreation center in Hampton and Bell has accused Ralph of delaying the project by not deciding on a spot to build.
Bell said he was ready to "move forward on a good note."
"I support Mr. Ralph," said Bell. "Before I didn't have a specific location ... now I do. I'm prepared to go forward."