Drill test planned at sports complex site

Richard Burkard/The Messenger

A sign promising a future sports complex has sat along Interstate 69 for more than a decade, while no work has been done. The Hopkins County Judge-Executive now is ready to drill on the site.

A sign of promise stands along Interstate 69 near the Earlington exit. It's potentially a place where sports teams from across the county could play. But the sign has stood longer than some current youth players have been alive.

Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr. is ready to act on that promise. Whitfield told a Fiscal Court committee this week he plans a core drill at the site of the long-awaited Hopkins County Regional Sports Complex to see if the land is usable.

"I think it's nothing more than clay," Whitfield said.

But surprises have stopped development at the site before.

Former magistrate and current Community Development Director Mike Duncan recalls the Fiscal Court voting to move forward with the complex in 2007. But state support was needed as well.

"To be truthful, we had a state representative that killed it when it got to him," Duncan said Thursday. "That stopped it."

Then there was the complaint to the Army Corps of Engineers claiming the site was protected wetlands. Duncan said the county proved otherwise.

Current magistrate Charlie Beshears says Hopkins County has been close to selling the land three times, but various things got in the way.

"They should have built two or three fields a year," Beshears said at Tuesday's meeting.

Instead, the 70-acre site near the West Kentucky Archery Complex still has nothing but that highway sign.

Many people believe the land has potential. Whitfield told a civic luncheon in March that it could become a large indoor facility for

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everything from basketball and soccer to tennis.

But the sports complex site is also not far from where the Hopkins County School Board built a large career and technology center. Then subsidence was discovered at that site. The center was abandoned, and now is being torn down.

Duncan, who advises the Fiscal Court on recreation and building matters, doesn't think that will be a problem. He noted a church and the archery complex were built nearby without any difficulties.

Whitfield estimates the core drilling will cost between $3,000-$5,000. Beyond that, there's the question of how to pay for developing the site.

"A lot of coal severance money has dried up in that time," Duncan said.

Corporate support may be lacking as well.

"We asked for the community to stand up, and we got crickets," said Magistrate Hannah Myers.

Beshears urged the Fiscal Court to act quickly, because a couple of potential grants expire by the end of the year.

"If we don't get those, we probably won't be able to do anything by the end of our term," Beshears said.

Whatever happens with the site, Myers and other magistrates want that sign along the interstate to come down. It's been there, by some guesses, since 2005.

Duncan suggested a cooperative arrangement with the city of Madisonville would help the sports complex succeed. He said the city would benefit from visitors as much as the county.

"Where are they going to go eat?" Duncan asked. "They're going to drive up to the restaurants in the city of Madisonville. It feeds itself."

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