Upton plans for improved recreation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2001

Craig Upton, the new Vicksburg Parks and Recreation director, stands on the bleachers at Bazinsky Field. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/05/01] Craig Upton has been on the job for less than 48 hours as Vicksburg’s new director of Parks and Recreation, but he’s already got a long “to do” list, and an even longer wish list.

Besides regular maintenance and upkeep of facilities, some of the projects on Upton’s plate include a new playground, a new softball complex, and bringing the Vicksburg-Warren Flag Football League under the Parks and Recreation umbrella. The flag football league is currently an independent organization.

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Farther off on the horizon is a multi-purpose indoor facility that would include a gym for city basketball and volleyball leagues, classroom space for various programs, and an indoor track.

“I know I’m speaking a lot about what I want, but the city’s way behind in the recreation field. We just haven’t been given the opportunity to expand to what we should be, compared to other communities in other cities and other states,” said Upton, who served as assistant director of Parks and Recreation for three years.

He was tapped for the new job by newly elected South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, the former recreation director. Upton’s new job also carries a hefty raise, from about $28,000 a year to $38,000 a year.

Upton, who credits the department’s maintenance crew by saying, “They’re what keep my department going,” said he hopes to have the softball complex built within four years, although he admits finding the land to build it on could be a problem.

“We definitely need, and have needed for years, a softball complex. Something that is elite. The city definitely needs something like that. It draws more tourists in, and it can be an every-weekend deal,” said Upton, a professional softball player. “But we have to have the land first. Me and Sid have looked at the land here across Bazinsky, but we don’t know if it’s possible. We don’t know if it’s for sale.”

Two new youth softball fields were built in 1999, but they aren’t large enough to host adult tournaments. There are only three adult fields currently in Vicksburg, two at City Park and one at Halls Ferry Park.

“That’s one of the things I’m going to try to get done in the near future. It can’t be done this year, of course,” Upton said.

There hasn’t been a city-run basketball or volleyball league in several years because of the lack of a city-owned facility. Games for previous leagues were held at schools or the Southern Cultural Heritage Complex. The new facility would solve those problems.

“We do need an indoor facility to run programs out of,” Upton said, but added that the facility is just an idea at this point.

Another idea was a new community park that Vicksburg’s children would have a hand in designing and naming.

“I would like to get another community park built, kind of like Riverfront Park. If I can get a grant done for that, then we’ll get together with the community and let the kids help design that park,” Upton said. “That would be a good deal for the kids to get involved with, in designing and naming that park.”