BUCKHANNON — Everyone needs a place to play — even grown men.
That’s the message Buckhannon resident Mitch Shaw delivered to Buckhannon City Council last Thursday when he came to speak about the need for a local recreational complex.
“One concern that I have is that we’re a community that has very little facilities available for activities outside the norm,” Shaw said. “One thing that I enjoy doing, that keeps me motivated to stay fit, stay healthy and lively and just have fun, is basketball.”
Shaw said he is a member of a group of 15-20 men who play on a weekly basis year-round.
“We like to play more than one time a week if we can — it isn’t really enough to keep you in shape — but the problem you run into is finding facilities and finding a place that you can go to year-round,” Shaw said.
Shaw said the group he plays with is often confronted with scheduling conflicts when trying to play at all the available facilities, including the Buckhannon-Upshur High School main gym, B-UHS auxiliary gym, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School gym, Buckhannon Academy School gym, West Virginia Wesleyan College gym and the Christian Missionary Alliance Church gym, the latter of which Shaw said is unsafe for the group to play in.
Shaw said the community needs a place where youth and adults alike can play sports year-round, adding that it’s important for adults to set an example of healthy lifestyles for kids.
“This isn’t only something that would benefit the youth, it would benefit adults as well, another facility — some kind of facility that is indoors that could be utilized for multi-purpose,” Shaw said. “One of the things that is very valuable about recreational facilities is that it does engage kids in something other than drugs. It engages kids in something other than, ‘Let’s go out and party on the weekends.’”
“As an adult, I don’t want to let go of my competitive spirit. I’m playing in a men’s league organized by Jason Westfall,” Shaw added. “We have facilities that are somewhat OK, but if we had facilities that were somewhat more available, then you wouldn’t run into scheduling conflicts. I know right off the top of my head 50 adult men who would be ecstatic if there was a court that they could use anytime that they wanted to year-round, and they would be there all the time.”
He suggested private pay-to-play tournaments as a way to fund the recreational facility. Building a facility would also benefit businesses because it would draw out-of-towners to spend money in local eateries like C.J. Maggie’s and Sam’s Pizza, Shaw said.
“I’m here to urge you as a council, if there are things upcoming in the near future, if they look like they could benefit this kind of idea, I would plead with you to back it in any way you can,” Shaw said.
Mayor David McCauley advised Shaw that the city is contemplating remodeling “that little rickety gym” at Stockert Youth Center.
“We’re looking at trying to affordably — and affordably is a relative term — if we could afford to do it, to be able to have a full-size gym that you’re talking about,” McCauley said. “I still think that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we really need as a community, and we don’t have $10, $12 or $15 million to go out and build the Taj Mahal of complexes, but if we started out with something small and then expand on it, we’re all ears to hearing those kinds of things.”
Councilman David Thomas said he thought the county should take part in the construction of a recreational complex.
“I’m not real enthused about the city doing a recreational complex; I think the county and the city ought to be doing it together, and I would ask you, what are you willing to pay on an annual basis to get a recreational complex?” Thomas said. “Are you willing to support a bond levy? I think that’s what this area needs.”
Shaw replied that he would pay “a lot of money, because it’s something that I love.”
“But I don’t think it would necessarily have to come to that,” he added.
Thomas replied, “I think it would. I think if you’re talking about a complex that’s going to be utilized by the community, both adults and youth, we need to do something more than what we have, and it’s going to cost pretty big bucks.”
Council thanked Shaw for his input, as did the Upshur County Commission when Shaw visited them at their regular weekly meeting earlier that morning.