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PINCKNEYVILLE - A city park initiative in Pinckneyville - including a new home for youth sports and other recreational opportunities - is quickly moving ahead.

The effort, spearheaded by the Foundation for Pinckneyville, is one of the goals in a strategic plan for the city, put together in a partnership between the Foundation and the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce.

The planning group, which includes representatives from the youth leagues, the Foundation and the city, received the go-ahead to research the development of 66 acres owned by the city. The parcel is west of the Imperial Heights subdivision along Mildred Drive.

New soccer, football, baseball and softball fields would be part of the complex. Eventually, indoor facilities would be added that could include a new town pool and a community center.

"It's all for the same purpose - betterment of the community and opportunities for our children," said Chad Rushing, a member of the Foundation and part of the planning group for the park initiative.

Rushing hopes groundbreaking can happen mid-year.

"That's an aggressive goal and I hope we can get it done," Rushing said.

One of the driving factors behind the creation of a sports complex is the need for more space at the Perry County Fairgrounds for the American Thresherman Association's annual Steam, Gas and Threshing Show. The seven day event is a huge boon for Pinckneyville. Last year, more than 20,000 people attended the event, representing several foreign countries and all 50 states.

Relocation of baseball and softball fields from the fairgrounds to the new park would free up a considerable amount of space for the Threshermen - who have invested a considerable amount of their own money on the site - to expand camping areas and make other improvements.

"We don't want to throw anybody out, we want to work with everybody," said American Thresherman Association President Josh Giacomo. "If you get everybody working together for a common goal, you get things done."

Just as the Threshermen are feeling a space crunch, so are the community's youth sports programs.

Greg Hale, retired Pinckneyville Community High School athletic director and part of the planning group, said the soccer league has become very popular and junior football is using high school football space for their events.

"It would mean a lot for the youth of our community to have a brand-new facility we can use," Hale said.

Pinckneyville Commissioner of Public Property David Stone said the city is supportive of the initiative, but a critical eye must be turned toward funding the complex.

Stone said initiative goes beyond creating a park district supported by taxes, but an independent entity that funds itself.

"The money has to be there," Stone said. "It's not something (the city) can afford to put a lot of money into and continue to support."


On Twitter: BrentStewartSI


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