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Ratliff to build activity center here

Sometimes, it’s the kids who make the often-heard complaint: "We don’t have anything to do."

Other times, even the adults start pondering about activities. There are no meeting rooms; we’d like to play bridge; we need a computer lab.

Theo Ratliff, fast becoming one of Demopolis’ favorite sons, has announced he will donate $200,000 to help build a new activity center in Demopolis, both for the young and old alike.

Luke Hallmark, Ratliff’s high school basketball coach and current superintendent of the Marengo County School System, has worked with Demopolis Parks and Recreation Director Mark Pettus and Mike Randall to put together plans for the "Theo Ratliff Activity Center."

In fact, Hallmark and Pettus have talked about the project numerous times, and this week, they got the go-ahead from Ratliff to begin.

Hallmark, Pettus and Randall have already completed most of the plans for the center, and an architectural firm already has the blueprints.

The "Theo Ratliff Activity Center," built on three lots next to U.S. Jones, will have the obvious: a basketball court. However, plans for the center also include a walking track, meeting rooms and even a computer lab.

Ratliff, who plays for the Atlanta Hawks and was voted to the NBA’s All-Star game in 2001, said the focus of this center doesn’t simply have to be on basketball.

Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell, who has already informed city council members about the new center, said Ratliff’s donation doesn’t have to do simply with the money.

According to Hallmark, the center will take nearly $600,000 to complete. Along with Ratliff’s donation, Hallmark and Pettus are working to secure a $250,000 grant that will help complete the project.

Though there is no set date for when the Ratliff Center will be complete, the city of Demopolis has already committed to managing the center once it is built. Caldwell said it will take somewhere close to $60,000 a year to hire a full-time director and to pay for other costs.