Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Decatur lands state tennis championships

By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Could adding more courts be Decatur’s ace for attracting tennis tournaments? That is what local parks and tourism leaders are banking on.

“We knew more courts would open the door for more tournaments, and that is what we presented to the City Council,” said Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Tom Chappell.

The pitch worked.

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$160,000 Huntsville Mortgage:$633/mo. No Credit Check-FREE Quotes! Last month, the City Council approved $142,986 from the capital budget to add courts to the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center at Point Mallard Park.

And the decision is paying off for the city.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced Decatur, Montgomery and Mobile would share hosting duties for the 1A to 5A state tennis championships from 2011-13.

The city will hold the 1A to 3A tournament in 2011, the 5A tournament in 2012 and the 4A tournament in 2013, said Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau President Tami Reist.

“We would not have been able to secure this at all without these extra courts,” Reist said. “We had to have courts in order for us to take on this role.”

To host the 6A championship, the AHSAA requires tennis complexes to house 24 courts.

“We were told if we had more courts we would probably be able to take on more important roles,” Reist said.

Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dunlap said the capital funds will build four courts at the tennis center, which features 12 hard courts, four clay courts and two indoor courts.


Construction on the courts, located northwest of the existing courts, will begin in four to six weeks and be complete by early spring, in time for the tournament.

According to Reist, 12 teams of boys and 12 teams of girls will attend the two-day state high school championships. And with them will come fans and family members, many staying in Decatur’s hotels and eating at the city’s restaurants.

Four years ago, hosting the state high school tennis championship seemed an unlikely dream for the center, which at the time featured six outdoor courts.

Officials credited Tennis Pro Tommy Wade and financial backing from the City Council for the turnaround.

In 2006, the council budgeted more than $1 million for the construction of 12 courts and a tennis building.


Since Wade’s arrival in 2004, the expansion of the center and the addition of the building and the bubble, which encloses two courts, Decatur has lured high school and college tournaments. In the past two years, the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center hosted the 6A state championship, the 1A to 3A state championship and tournaments for the Alabama Community College Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

With the four extra courts, Decatur is lobbying to be one of the top tennis centers in the region.

“These courts will definitely open more doors for us as far as hosting more tournaments, in the future,” Reist said.

Along with enticing tournaments, the courts will serve the growing local tennis population.

“The courts are filled up during the evenings and weekends,” Chappell said. “We needed these courts to help get more tournaments as well as serve the community.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Council approces Ingalls pavilion architectural firm

By Evan Belanger, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The Decatur City Council has voted unanimously to hire local architectural firm GBW Architects Inc. to design a 25,000-square-foot pavilion and associated improvements planned for Ingalls Harbor.

Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dunlap said the vote marks the first step toward building the pavilion, which the council decided to help complete last month.

"The project is moving along," John Godwin, an architect with GBW, told the council during its Monday meeting.

"We're just real excited about getting this thing done."

The decision to hire GBW is no surprise to those who have followed the project.

Previous projects

The firm has completed conceptual drawings for the pavilion, which is intended to expand use of the city-owned harbor beyond its primary function as a site for fishing tournaments.

Additionally, the firm has worked on several other city recreation projects, including the initial design for Ingalls Harbor, the Jack Allen Soccer Complex and parts of Delano Park.

"Anytime you have a project of this scope, you have to pick out the best architect you can find," Dunlap said.

Godwin said Monday his firm would need three or four months to complete its design work, with an additional seven months to put out bids, get permits and construct the pavilion.

That tentatively sets an April or May 2011 completion date if all goes to plan.

Hotel tax

The council voted unanimously last month to spend up to $2.8 million on the project, which the local Hospitality Association and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau requested.

The Hospitality Association has agreed to reimburse the city over time with funds from its $2-per-night surcharge on local hotel stays.

Godwin said he is meeting with groups that could use the pavilion to solicit input as part of his design work. He said the preliminary plan calls for an open-air pavilion that can be closed during inclement weather.

He added that the design would allow the city to permanently close the structure, if desired in the future, creating a complete, indoor meeting facility.

City officials have said the pavilion will feature enough space to seat 750 at tables and 1,500 without them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Efforts for dress up Decatur recognized

By Lucy Berry, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Getting out in the hot, humid summer to water plants, pull weeds and pick up trash is a joint effort for workers at Cricket by the Creek, but they do it with pride.

Lisa Jones, owner of the clothing boutique, was one of more than 50 local property owners to take home a Decatur Beautification Award on Wednesday. Each year, Cricket by the Creek strives to maintain outdoor landscaping and improve Decatur’s appearance.

“We support the city of Decatur’s beautification efforts as it’s important that our building is kept clean and attractive,” said sales associate Tricia Mitchell. “We think it’s great because we take pride in the first impression that our customers have.”

Jones hires landscapers to design, apply mulch, prune plants and keep sidewalks clean. However, workers at the boutique spend an additional hour a day weeding, watering plants and picking up debris from the store’s location on Sixth Avenue Southeast.

Cricket by the Creek varies its landscaping by season, with begonia flowers in the summer and pansies and mums in the fall. With each holiday, workers apply seasonal touches such as pumpkins and ivy to attract customers into the store.

“Customers tell us all the time that our flowers are so pretty and want to know what kind they are,” said sales associate Robin Williams. “We buy our pots and plants locally so we are able to refer them to other small, local businesses.”

The desire to keep up a clean image and compete for a beautification plaque each year makes the time and money spent well worth the effort for Jones.

“We like to know we’re helping the city accomplish something,” she said. “The awards get people to keep their own buildings cleaner and gives us something to work for.”

Downtown proponent

Lynn Schuppert, of Blackburn, Maloney & Schuppert LLC., accepted a Beautification Award for the “container beauty” category, created three years ago to encourage downtown businesses to get involved with landscaping.

Schuppert credited her competitive nature and love for historic Decatur for the law firm winning an award every year.

“I’m a big proponent for downtown,” she said. “When I travel to different places, I try to make it to the downtown areas. If a business is maintained nicely and is clean, I feel like the merchant takes pride in what they have to offer.”

Sugar Magnolia’s owner Amy Rakestraw designs and plants flowers into pots that are displayed at the front of the law firm. She is also responsible for the potted plants at other local businesses, including Beautification Award winners Cricket by the Creek, Parkway Medical Center and Elite Travel.

“Businesses either buy plants from me and do it themselves, or I physically come and do the designing,” Rakestraw said. “It’s the ultimate compliment for me knowing that I’m helping other people get a bug for gardening even on a small scale.”

57 winners

Fifty-seven properties received Beautification awards this year. In addition, Burger King on Beltline Road won the John Cook Sr. Steward of Spring Award for consistently maintaining its landscape for at least five years and being the single best property in Decatur.

Commercial, less than two acres: Cooks Pest Control; Cricket by the Creek; Decatur Convention & Visitors Bureau; The Decatur Daily; Drake & Murphree Family & Cosmetic Dentistry; Express Oil Change-Beltline Road Southwest; Express Oil Change-Sixth Avenue Southeast; French Door Day Spa; Hospice of the Valley; Innovative Eyecare LLC; Lentz, Whitmire, House & Propst LLP; McWhorter Communications and Ronald & Joyce Terry; Nephrology of North Alabama PC; Personal Touch Health Care; Potter Eyecare; Ronald Terry Electric; Shelton Funeral Home; Talley, Maudlin & Peete PC; Temple Inc and Three Sisters Bonding Inc.

Commercial, more than two acres: Bradford Square; Deer Foot Estates and Parkway Medical Center.

Churches: Albany Baptist Church; Baptist World Mission (Honorable Mention); Central Park Baptist Church; Decatur Baptist Church; First Baptist Church; First Bible Church; First United Methodist Church; King’s Memorial United Methodist Church and St. Luke United Methodist Church.

Containers: Blackburn, Maloney, & Schuppert LLC. and Elite Travel.

Financial: Bank Independent-Beltline Road/The Crossings Shopping Center; Family Security Credit Union-Family Security Place; People’s Bank of North Alabama-Sixth Avenue and Renasant Bank-Lee Street Southeast/Modaus Road Southeast/Stratford Road Southeast.

Government: Decatur City Hall (Honorable Mention); Decatur Utilities; Fort Decatur Recreational Center; Morgan County Commission on Aging; Morgan County Courthouse; The Old State Bank; Point Mallard Park Entrance; Rose Garden at Delano Park and Turner Surles Community Center

Hotels/Apartments/Condos: Danville Park Apartments (Honorable Mention); Granada Apartments and Microtel Inn & Suites

Restaurants: Burger King-Sixth Avenue/Beltline Road; Chick-fil-A; The Corner Bakery & Eatery; Red Lobster Restaurant and Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers-Beltline Road.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pastor lobbies for local incubator

By Sheryl Marsh, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

It’s working in the Northeast and it’s working in the Northwest, as near as Huntsville and Muscle Shoals.

Decatur can have a successful entrepreneurial center, too, Larry Waye told the Morgan County Commission during a meeting Wednesday.

Waye, who serves as associate pastor of Decatur Baptist Church, asked the commission for a $100,000 appropriation for the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center.

He gave commissioners copies of a business plan and a written PowerPoint presentation for the center.

Waye said the center, located on Fourth Avenue Southeast, used to be the Decatur Business Incubator.

The center will provide services, including counseling and training, for people who want to start a business.

“The Shoals has a successful one, and Huntsville has two that are successful,” Waye said.

“We can have a successful one in Morgan County.”

He didn’t have statistics for those in the Shoals and Huntsville, but gave the commission information about centers in Virginia and Ohio.

The information showed that 47 companies, 450 jobs and $45 million in revenue came out of an incubator in Reston, Va., in less than 10 years.

Since 2002 in Youngs­town, Ohio, an incubator generated new companies that brought 235 jobs and $37 million in revenue.

Waye said he would be the board’s executive director.

Commissioners did not commit to Waye for the $100,000 request but were enthusiastic about the center.

Officials of these agencies also met with the commission and either asked for level funding or raises to annual allotments they get from the county:

•Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, $10,000 in addition to $50,000 allotment.

•Spirit of America, level funding, $8,000.

•The Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, $25,000.

•Soil and Water Conservation, $56,000.

•Carnegie Visual Art Center, $5,000.

•Emergency 911, $65,663.

•Decatur Youth Symphony, $5,000.
Commissioners did not make decisions on the monetary requests Wednesday.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Walking This Way

June walking tours begin Saturday across Alabama
By Andrea Brunty, Living editor, The Decatur Daily

Explore downtown Decatur on Saturday mornings in June as local guides take visitors and natives on a free one-hour tour.

Plan to be at the rose garden in Delano Park on Gordon Drive Southeast by 10 a.m. Saturday and June 12, 19 and 26 to take the tour.

The Albany Historic District will be featured in this year’s tour, while the Old Decatur area has been the focus in alternate years.

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She makes $6795 a month working online. Read her story to see how. Each tour is different, said Squee Bailey of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, so you can attend all four and learn something new.

“It’s not just an architecture tour or a history tour, the guides talk about the characters that lived there and that kind of thing,” Bailey said.

Depending on the weather, the crowd can vary from 15 to 50 attendees, and can include people from across the state.

Knowledgeable guides, including Melinda Dunn of the Old State Bank and Kelley Gillikin, a longtime Albany resident, will share history, entertaining stories and even some “tall tales.”

Gay Maloney, who will guide Saturday’s tour, may share a rumor about her house in Albany. Her brick home is said to be earthquake-proof because a California architect helped design it, she said.

“The guides will bring the historic Albany neighborhood to life, sharing its history and talking about the homes while walking through the neighborhoods,” she said.

The guides will explore the beginning of the historic district, which was originally called New Decatur.

“They’ll talk about how Albany was a planned community, and how it aimed to be the Chicago of the South to attract people from all over the country,” Maloney said.

Nearby cities such as Athens, Hartselle, Courtland, Madison and Huntsville will also participate in the statewide walking tour campaign developed by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel.

“Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours,” said coordinator Brian Jones of the Alabama Tourism Department. “The beauty of the June walking tours is that any community, whether big or small, can do this.”

The department has organized more than 1,000 walking tours since the beginning of the program seven years ago, Jones said, and they increase in popularity every year.

The tours will continue rain or shine. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

For information about the tours and other events and attractions in Decatur, contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 350-2028 or 800-524-6181 or visit For other tours, visit or call 800-ALABAMA.

Walking tours

The free guided walking tours will begin at 10 a.m. Saturdays in June. Area towns and starting places include:

Athens, Limestone County Courthouse Annex Parking Lot

Courtland, Park on the Square

Decatur, Delano Park Rose Garden

Florence, various starting locations; Gadsden, City Hall Gazebo

Guntersville, Chamber of Commerce

Hartselle, Historic Depot

Huntsville, Constitution Village (Saturday and June 12 only)

Madison, Madison Roundhouse (June 19 and 26 only)

Scottsboro, Jackson County Heritage Center

Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building

Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore