Filed Under:  Local

Private development plans on public land scrapped

4th April 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Della Hasselle
Contributing Writer

A controversial plan to build a sports complex on a section of The Fly has been called off following months of protests by a group of residents who said the plan swallowed up too much of the parks’ free space.

The nonprofit sports organization Carrollton Booster Club had planned on building a multi-million dollar sports center on a swath of land by the river in Audubon Park, officially called the Audubon Riverview Park.

But last week, John Payne, a Harrah’s Casino executive businessman and board member of the Audubon Nature Institute called the project off, saying he would be returning the roughly $4 million in donations from supporters like New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and quarterback Drew Brees.

In an open letter, he called the plan “hugely divisive,” saying that he was “shocked” by attacks on social media, and that “no one wins” when a privately funded complex isn’t built.

“Over the past few weeks, we have been working hard to build more consensus with a large group of community leaders and organizations,” Payne said. “However, it is now apparent that there is no design that can create common ground with so many competing interests.”

The project was slated to include a multipurpose sports field, comprising one of the few pro-turf fields in the city, as well as other amenities, like a playground, new bathrooms and concession stands.

Rini Marcus, president of the Carrollton Boosters board of directors, called the decision “unfortunate,” noting that the Carrollton Boosters already provides sports programming for children from 135 different schools and approximately 4,200 families.

With the new complex, he added, an additional soccer project would have further cultivated “sportsmanship” and “teamwork” within the community, he said.

“For the past several months our organization and Audubon Commission has worked tirelessly to address concerns expressed by the community in an effort to devise a revised plan for how to best expand youth athletics in New Orleans while preserving one of our city’s precious green spaces,” Marcus said. “Unfortunately, those discussions have failed to yield consensus on a way forward.”

Other residents, however, saw the plan’s death as a chance to rejoice, and celebrated after the announcement came out last Monday with a champagne toast on the steps of an art installation at the center of a grassy space overlooking the river, where organizers planned to build the complex.

“This is the land that belongs to the people of New Orleans,” said Christopher Lane, a member of Save The Fly, a now-fractured group that had been for months protesting the construction of the sports complex at that very spot. “This is a victory.”

The group’s protests had begun in early February, and were largely centered on opportunity for public comment. Neighborhood activists had called for public hearings on the proposal, and had asked that generally City Council members have more input over projects planned by institutions like Audubon.

After a series of protests, organizers and some protestors had seemed to agree on a deal that would move the new complex further away from the river, although not all Save the Fly members were happy with that compromise.

This article originally published in the April 4, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.