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Local Committee Wants New Multi-Sports Complex For Cookeville

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Local Committee Wants New Multi-Sports Complex For Cookeville

A local group wants to see Cookeville develop a new multi-sports complex to help attract more tourism dollars and serve the needs of local residents.

Harry Smith is the Putnam/White County Ambassador for the US Pickleball Association. He leads the committee which started earlier this year as a way to increase facilities for pickleball. But the idea evolved into a facility that could serve multiple sports.

“The complex that our committee is currently looking at would consist of six multi use courts that would be used for basketball, indoor soccer called footsball and volleyball,” Smith said. “This would be for the traveling teams that look for facilities to play in during their peak seasons, and then it would be used for practice during their off seasons. The other component within that facility will be a nine-court dedicated pickleball facility, of which one of those nine courts would be adaptive wheelchair pickleball, which is also a growing sport. And this will allow 24/7 really year round play indoor for all those sports.”

Smith said the community loses hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because it does not have the facilities to host travel sports.

“These are big programs with tens of thousands of players and they need a place to play indoors,” Smith said. “Shan Stout, our Director of Tourism, had to turn away literally tens of thousands of potential athletes who wanted to play in Cookeville, but we did not have the courts to accommodate them.”

Smith said the Cane Creek facility simply does not have enough space to serve a growing population and the potential tourist aspects outlined in the proposal.

“When Cane Creek tries to accommodate those travel sports, then they have to kick out other parts of their program that are integral parts of the gymnasium at their facility,” Smith said.

The committee envisions six multi-sport floors, an elevated walking track, seating and viewing areas, meeting and conference rooms, and facilities to serve those needs. Smith said the committee has not set a total square footage, but has commissioned drawings of the idea. The committee does suggest a phase two swim facility and a new tennis facility as a possible third phase to complete the project.

Smith said they started looking at warehouse space that might be renovated and turned into pickleball courts. However, as the needs became more evident, that vision grew.

“The potential is tremendous,” Smith said. “We’re looking at weekend activities that’s going to bring in and I’m not exaggerating when I say this we’re bringing in thousands of players, referees, other officials, parents, grandparents who will be staying overnight for some of these competitions, which will feed our restaurants, it will feed our housing, it will feed the various other businesses we have that cater to tourism. But it’s not only the money. It is being able to provide a unique facility for people nine to 90 who want to play these sports, not only in a competitive area, but also in a wellness and fitness vein, certainly.”

The last Cookeville City Council noted an aquatics and multi-sport facility ranked number one among citizen wants in multiple surveys done about the community’s future. Land was purchased on Old Sparta Road, just off Highway 111 to potentially develop these recreational facilities. The current council has seemingly cooled on the idea, citing a need for infrastructure during a time of inflation. The council is planning a work session to talk about the priorities for the city’s capital spending.

Smith, a retired Tennessee Tech Professor, said the committee understands the city may not be able to do the facility on its own.

“We have to secure property, and the city has indicated that they have some property that they might be willing to provide for this facility,” Smith said. “Once we get the property committed, then we can move into our developmental stage, which will include marketing, fundraising, and fundraising will be the big one on this because it would not be an inexpensive facility.”

The committee meets again Wednesday.


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