Theo Ratliff Center looks to expand

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; After less than two years of operation, the Theo Ratliff Activity Center is already looking at the possibility of expansion by applying for a grant through the Community Development Block Grant Program, which is part of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

The Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission has been helping to assist in community projects since 1970.

The expansion project would involve the construction of 3,000 square feet onto the existing facility, which would contain five multi-purpose rooms.

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Riggs has been working with Edward Ward, director of the Theo Ratliff Center, and Mark Pettus, director of City of Demopolis Parks and Recreation, to determine the needs and costs for the project.

In order to fund the project, the City Council would have to approve the Center&8217;s request to apply for a grant, in addition to providing some percentage of matching funds.

According to Riggs, the estimated cost for the expansion will be approximately $400,000 in construction costs alone.

Demopolis native and NBA player, Theo Ratliff, for whom the Center is named, has already promised $100,000 to help fund the expansion project.

The grant through the CDBGP will be for approximately $250,000.

According to Ward, in January of this year, 3,678 people have used the Center&8217;s facilities. The numbers for the month of May were well over 5,000.

In addition to regular sports events such as basketball, the Center hosts everything from outreach classes, senior citizens programs, parenting classes to golf lessons.

One of the problems with the current facility is that they often have to shut down the gym in order to set up for the next activity. Since they only have the one large area to host programs, Ward said he and his staff spend the majority of their time setting up and taking down for each new program.

If they are able to build an expansion to the Center, Ward said, the Center can offer more programs to the public.

The next step in the process for the expansion of the Theo Ratliff Center is for Riggs to present his proposal to the City Council for their approval. If the council approves, then they can begin the process of securing funding.