Friday, February 17, 2012

2nd Ingalls pavilion adds $34K to project's cost

By Tiffeny Owens The Decatur Daily
The $3.6 million publicly funded Ingalls pavilion has been complete for more than two months, but the city is still getting bills.
On Monday, the Decatur City Council will vote on a $34,810 change order submitted by Decatur firm GBW Architects on behalf of Decatur contractor Fite Building Co. The new costs are covered by a $250,000 contingency clause for unforeseen expenses in the contract. However, this latest bill, combined with $37,867 in change orders GBW filed in July, increases the cost of the 27,000-square-foot facility by $72,677.
“This is just a housekeeping item so the builders get paid,” said Tom Chappell, Decatur Parks and Recreation assistant director. “The project is still within its $3.6 million budget.”
The pavilion structure now costs $3,089,204, up from the original contract price of $3,016,527, according to the latest change order dated Jan. 16.
The remaining $510,796, including the rest of the contingency money, was used on the parking lot and landscaping.
“We knew going in there would be some expenses we weren’t sure about,” Chappell said. “That’s why we had the contingency fee. We didn’t want to go back to the council and ask for more than the $3.6 million they already gave us for the project.”
Repaving the access road into the pavilion, a $26,285.96 expense, made up the bulk of the $34,810 change order.
Other costs included installing custom plastic laminate in bathrooms ($742.50), relocating two heaters ($1,977.03) and adding electric circuits and breakers for bathroom hand dryers ($1,406.51).
The city financed the pavilion by borrowing $2 million from its reserves and $1.6 million from the Morgan County Commission’s landfill fund. The Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association will repay both loans over a period of 15 years, using revenue raised by its $2-per-night tax on local hotel stays.
When the pavilion was conceived in 2010 to attract more tourism, the city set a budget of $2.4 million to build the structure and a maximum of $2.8 million for the entire project. The first round of bids came over those figures, with the lowest being $450,000 over budget. Designs were scaled down and the project rebid in January 2011.
Since opening in late November, the pavilion has played host to events such as the NAIA women’s soccer tournament welcome dinner and Decatur General Hospital Foundation’s Gala. And bookings for corporate and private events continue to come in, Chappell said. Rental fees go into the city’s general fund.
This spring, the pavilion will host proms for Decatur and Austin high schools and a banquet for the Hartselle High School state championship football team.
The city-owned facility is jointly-managed by the parks and recreation department and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The council will vote at its 10 a.m. meeting.

The Circus Is Coming to Town

The Piccadilly Circus is coming to Decatur on February 27 at the Morgan County Celebration Arena with two scheduled performances at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. In its 26th year, Piccadilly Circus provides affordable family entertainment with everything you would expect to see at a circus.

Along with plenty of comedic clowns, the 1 ½ hour show features daring feats high in the air and fabulous human agility on the ground. Children particularly love the “Elephant Extravaganza” where an elephant balances on one foot. All of the action takes place in a one ring Cirque du Soleil format with state of the art lighting and sound.

Adult tickets are $30 general admission in advance or $32 the day of the show. Ticket price for children is $11 general admission. Free children’s tickets will be distributed at elementary schools in the area. Free tickets are also available at sponsoring businesses in the area and special “buy one get one free” adult tickets are available online at for a limited time.

Piccadilly Circus is a production of ICE CAPADES producers and plays mostly one or two days in cities throughout North America.

The Morgan County Celebration Arena is located at 67 Horse Center Road in Decatur. For more information, call 256.584.6725.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Decatur Hits a Homeroom with Shorter University Softball Invitational Tournament

Wilson Morgan to serve as host venue 2012 to 2016
Shorter University recently announced it will relocate its NAIA Softball Invitational Tournament to Wilson Morgan Park in Decatur under a five year contract. Set for February 23-26, 2012, the four day tournament will be hosted by the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department and is expected to attract 20 women’s teams from across the southeastern United States.

For the past 4 years, the Softball Invitational has been held on the college’s home field, Alto Park Softball Complex located in West Rome. Organizers recently announced the relocation of the event from Rome to Wilson Morgan Park to accommodate and allow for its continued growth. The 2011 event attracted 16 teams from six states.

“We are thrilled Decatur, Alabama and its officials will be the host of this softball tournament. Their experience of previously hosting the NAIA National Softball Championship will certainly be a beacon of light as we move forward to prepare for this growing event,” said Al Thomas, head softball coach for Shorter University.

“I am ecstatic the Decatur Parks & Recreation Department, Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Shorter University, and Head Coach Al Thomas could reach an agreement to bring the Shorter University Invitational Softball Tournament to the city of Decatur and Wilson Morgan Softball Complex,” said David Wisdom, Wilson Morgan Complex Softball Manager. “We feel by bringing this tournament to Decatur it is a win, win situation for everyone involved. We will be able to increase the number of teams that will be able to participate in the tournament as well as extend the tournament from two days to a four day event. This event will bring welcomed revenue in February to the hotels, restaurants and shopping centers during a time that is typically slow for the hospitality industry.”

Wisdom is credited with bringing the tournament to Decatur. According to Kelly Varnell, Recreation Superintendent for the Decatur Parks and Recreation, Wisdom served as a host coach for Shorter University during the NAIA Softball National Championship in Decatur in 2009 and 2010. He not only became friends with the coaching staff but to the players and their families and traveled to their home field to watch them play. David took a simple task of serving as a host coach to developing a strong bond between him and the entire softball family of Shorter University.

“I am very proud and honored to have played a part in bringing this tournament to Decatur but I believe this agreement was made due to the City of Decatur's dedication and reputation earned while hosting the NAIA Softball National Championships the previous 13 years at Wilson Morgan Complex in which Shorter University was a participant. The city of Decatur, Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, hotels, Parks & Recreation's facilities, dedicated employees and the best grounds crew in America all aided in securing this tournament,” added Wisdom.

Wilson Morgan Softball Complex features six lighted fields, centrally located concessions, quad, press box and batting cages. Each field has a clay infield and beautiful grass, maintained by electronically controlled underground irrigation systems. The facility can seat over 2,000 spectators with additional seating available. For more information on Wilson Morgan Softball Complex, visit

For additional information on the 2012 Softball Invitational Tournament, contact David Wisdom at 256.341.4934.

Shorter University is a liberal arts Southern Baptist-affiliated University located in Rome, Georgia. For more information, visit

Alabama Artic Blast

The Shorter University Invitational that will take place February 23-26, 2012, will be changing the tournament name. The tournament will now be known as the "Alabama Artic Blast".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

UAH Charger Chillout Set for February 17-19, 2012

Twenty-four collegiate softball teams from eight states will be traveling to Decatur in February to compete in the 2012 Charger Chillout hosted by UAHuntsville. The three-day tournament is set for February 17-19, 2012 at the Wilson Morgan Softball Complex in Decatur, Ala.

According to the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 740 room nights were sold generating an economic impact of $385K with the 2011 tournament, a significant increase from the 2010 event which brought in an impact of $243K from 481 room nights.   

Games are scheduled for 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Daily admission is $10/adult and $5/student or an adult weekend pass is available for $20. Wilson Morgan Softball Complex is a 6-field softball facility located at 300 Beltline Road Southeast in Decatur.

For more information, contact Complex Manager David Wisdom at 256.341.4934 or Assistant Complex Manager John Sanchious at 256.341.4810.

 About The Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCCVB)
The Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau is a not-for-profit organization promoting tourism and economic growth in Morgan County. For information on special events and attractions in Decatur, contact the DMCCVB at 800.524.6181 or 256.350.2028; or visit its website at 

Monday, February 6, 2012

She had faith the world would Change

By Catherine Godbey The Decatur Daily
This is the first in a series of feature stories during Black History Month. Stories will run each Tuesday in February. Nominate an individual who is making an impact on his or her community by emailing a brief description and contact information to

Three years ago, Lucy Ford, dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, watched in awe from her cream recliner at her Eighth Street Southwest home.

The woman who worked in cotton fields, sat in the back of a bus, drank out of cups marked with a black slash — the designation for black customers — saw a black man take the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States.

She heard President Barack Obama issue a challenge:

“Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

Obama received the “gift of freedom,” a gift centuries in the making, from generations before, and people like 104-year-old Ford, who endured the height of prejudice and racism.

“She never thought she would see a black man be president,” said Mary Gilbert, great-niece of Ford. “Never ever. She sat right here and watched the whole inauguration.”

Born on Jan. 13, 1908, 43 years after the end of the Civil War, Ford grew up among former slaves — those declared “personal property” by the 1857 Dred Scott Decision. She lived on a farm in Colbert County with her four brothers, four sisters and mother and father, who worked the fields.

At age 12, after eight years of school, Ford, too, walked the rows of cotton, dragging a burlap sack down Alabama’s red dirt.

“When it was time to chop cotton, I chopped. When it was time to pick cotton, I picked,” she said. “I would pull in about 100 (pounds) a day.”

When she got older, Ford cleaned buildings and worked for a white family in Leighton. On Sundays, she sat in a pew in St. James Mission Baptist Church in Leighton.

She worked and prayed. She had faith the world would change, that one day blacks and whites wouldn’t have to drink from a separate water fountains, ride in separate train cars, use separate restrooms, live separate lives.

“There was a place in Leighton that sold the best hamburgers. We couldn’t enter from the front,” said Gilbert, 62. “There was an entrance in the alley we had to go through, even when I was young. That’s just the way it was.”

Slowly, the change Ford prayed for occurred.

In 1947, the woman who spent hours listening to baseball games on the radio heard the announcers utter a new name — Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League Baseball player.

In 1954, Ford watched as her nieces and nephews, once designated to all-black schools, integrate with white students.

And in 1965, she saw black voters cast ballots.

The joys, however, came with sorrow. Attackers firebombed a bus ridden by the Freedom Riders, James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed and four girls were killed.

“Back in them days, it was really bad, that prejudice was real bad. It’s hard for us to understand today,” Gilbert said. “One of Aunt Lucy’s brothers, a white man spit in his face. That stuff happened all the time.”

Despite the advancements, the fight must continue, Ford said.

“We are not where we need to be yet. There is still hatred by whites and blacks, on both sides, and there’s no need,” Gilbert said. “But God has brought us so far. Back in them days, the white folks didn’t want the black folks and now it’s the Mexicans.”

Every night, Ford prays for her more than 300 great-nieces and nephews and the world around them. It is a faith that Ford passed down to her family.

“You know, in the Bible, God said in the end nobody’s going to know whether you’re black, whether you’re white, whether you’re Mexican,” Gilbert said. “Color shouldn’t matter, but for some reason it did and still does.”

Lift Every Voice and Sing

To preserve history and the stories of individuals who built Decatur, the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau created “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The video profiles noteworthy African-Americans and their contributions to the religion, education, military, athletics, political and social scenes of Decatur.

Some of those profiled include:

Bertha Lee Polk Lyle: The first African-American female preacher in Decatur.

Herschel V. Cashin: Served two terms in the Alabama Legislature as a representative of Montgomery County. He was Decatur’s first African-American attorney and served on the city council.

Dr. Frank Sykes: Sykes attended Morehouse College and Howard University, where he earned a dental degree. He played professional baseball in the Negro Baseball League. After his baseball career ended, he moved back to Decatur.

Robert Murphy: Born a slave, Murphy received quasi-free status. After the Civil War, he helped rebuild the city’s homes, churches and business district.

Athelyne Banks: Decatur’s first female principal.

Burrell Lemon: A grocer and the city’s first black city councilman.

Matilda Hall: A notary public and the first female pharmacist in Decatur.