Parks, recreation trending for big year in ‘24

Published 6:30 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Special to The Demopolis Times

Few people realize the broad scope of everything the Demopolis Parks and Recreation Department does for the city – all with 10 full-time and five part-time employees.

“There are probably about 35 or 40 things that people don’t know we have anything to do with,” said Walton Roberts, head of the department.

Email newsletter signup

Speaking to the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday, March 27, Roberts said the services offered not only benefit the residents of the city but bring in welcomed tax revenue from visitors who come to enjoy the facilities.

Roberts has worked for the city for 25 years, 13 years as director of parks and recreation. His department runs the SportsPlex, the Ravine golf course, Theo Ratliff Activity Center and its adjacent pool complex, baseball, softball, soccer and flag football leagues and schedules all the fishing tournaments at the newly upgraded City Landing.

More part-time workers are added as needed to run concession stands or work with summer programs.

Baseball and softball have roared back in popularity after the SportsPlex hosted the Babe Ruth world series five years ago, Roberts said. Some 205 kids are signed up to play baseball this year, up from 130 before the series. In softball, he expects 241 girls, up from 140.

Soccer had 220 kids in 2023, and he anticipates a few more to sign up in 2024. Flag football, now in its fourth year, has just over 100 youth enrolled.

Flag football “has been a big addition to get us more activity during the time of year” that parks and recreation has more of a down time, he said. The Ravine had more than 8,000 rounds of golf played on the course in 2023, and already it is trending ahead of that number this year.

“Park and rec also has been very involved in booking fishing tournaments,” he continued. “That’s one of the more important things that we do because it is an important revenue generator for the city.”

Fishermen and their families book hotel rooms, shop, buy gas, eat at restaurants and otherwise support local businesses.

Last year, the City Landing had 34 weekends booked with tournaments. Roberts said he has scheduled 36 already this year.

In 2023, the state high school fishing tournament came to Demopolis. Roberts said the organizers were so impressed that they are coming back this year with three consecutive weekend tournaments.

The department started a sponsorship program when it hosted the world series. It has grown into a way for area businesses to support all the youth programs at one time instead of being asked repeatedly for money throughout the year. Roberts said businesses now readily send in their checks, sometimes without even being contacted.

“It’s been a big plus for us,” said Roberts. “Business owners, I hear them all the time thanking us for that.”

Roberts talked extensively about the Theo Ratliff Center and the many programs it offers to the community. While some people think it is only a place to play basketball, Roberts stressed that anyone wanting to shoot hoops during the day must be signed up in one of the adult workforce development programs. Evening hours are open to adult play.

The center offers after-school activities that include tutoring, recreation and snacks. In the summer, around100 children take part in a day-long program that has arts and crafts and time in the pool.

Many groups also rent out the facility for their own programs and activities, he added.

As for what the future has in store, Roberts said he actively is recruiting more fishing tournaments. They are minimal work for the park and recreation staff while being an economic boon to the city.