Sports complex proposed in Versailles

Wanda English Burnett - Editor

A comprehensive state-of-the-art sports complex located right next to a school could be a winning combination for the community of Versailles.

Jerry Gilpin, who is helping spearhead the project, noted that he was told at the June school board of the South Ripley Board of Trustees that they would have an answer for him at the July meeting, which will be held tonight, July 12. This answer would be whether they would agree for property next to the elementary school to be used for the proposed project. The school would lease the acreage to be used for the sports complex. It would be maintained through a park board, governed by the Versailles Town Council.

Gilpin told The Versailles Republican that he and many others have been working on the project for a couple of years. “We’ve been doing a lot of informal talking and know we need new ballparks and fields for the kids of this community,” he noted.

While the town’s lagoons have been looked at as a site for the project, the cost is not conducive. According to statistics provided by Town Clerk-Treasurer Ted Spurlock the highest bidder, Mitchell & Stark came in at $674,710.00 and that is just to fill the hole where the lagoons are. Then the construction of the fields would begin. The bids started at $261,280, $293,484, $358,798 then jumped to the $600,000 range.

“It just wasn’t cost effective,” noted Gilpin. The Versailles Town Council has put the sewer lagoons sports complex idea on hold for the time being and are exploring other options, one could be at the site near the elementary school on Benham Road. The school owns 32 acres on the south side of the school, according to Gilpin, who said about 20 would be used for the sports complex.

Gilpin noted that the idea is to have a great sports complex that would have basketball courts, batting cages, softball, soccer, baseball and T-ball fields, along with tennis courts. “Then South Ripley could offer tennis,” he enthused. There will also be a concession stand and storage space built into the complex. Right now the soccer board is wanting to join in with the project, according to Gilpin, who says that includes people from both the South Ripley and Jac-Cen-Del schools.

The sports complex would enhance the school as they would be able to use it for various sports. For example, they could use it for girl’s softball.

The project would be built with grant dollars and would be done possibly in a couple of phases. Gilpin said the entire project would run about $710,000. “We want this to be a neighborhood friendly project,” he noted, saying a tree line would be planted to block sound and they would work with residents in close proximity to the complex. Once the initial cost to construct the fields is completed, the upkeep would be maintained by sponsors, fundraisers and tournaments.

The idea is to get the sports complex up and running within a year and fill a void that is greatly needed in the community. Gilpin noted that little league teams have outgrown Pangburn Park. “This is about the kids in our community,” he concluded. As a Versailles business owner Gilpin said he felt he needed to get involved with the project to try to boost the community. “I’m definitely not the only one involved here,” he noted, saying there are a number of people on board and have worked just as hard or harder than he has on the idea.

If anyone has ideas or would like to know more about the proposed sports complex, Gilpin says they can call him at 689-6188.

Paul Anderson, president of the Farm Bureau, addresses the Ripley County Area Planning Commission on saving agricultural land.