The Battlefield Park tennis community has big plans for the future
When Jackson police found a body lying near a children’s playground in Battlefield Park on a rainy March day in 2021, it was the catalyst for a drive to change the perception of the area.
Venecca Green, Jackson’s attorney and captain of the Battlefield Tennis Community Association, said for years other tennis clubs and community members had whispered about how dangerous the park was, painting a picture of criminals sneaking into black.
But for Green and other tennis players at Battlefield Park’s Dorothy Vest Tennis Center, the perception didn’t match the reality they knew or the future they knew the park might have.
After that dismal morning, Green founded the Friends of Battlefield Park Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at increasing community engagement, improving community health and well-being, and reducing crime, according to the site. Group website.
“We’re actually seeing the restoration and revitalization of this whole neighborhood through tennis,” Green said of expanding the Dorothy Vest Tennis Center for tournaments and restoring the area around Battlefield Park and the along Highway 80.
Green’s plan emphasizes a tennis center economic development project that could bring not only potential revenue to the city, but the revitalization of Highway 80 near the park.
The idea came to Green after attending Southern Sectionals at the Mobile Tennis Center in Alabama.
One of the largest public tennis facilities in the world with some 60 state-of-the-art lighted courts, the facility hosts numerous tournaments, including US Tennis Association adult and junior games, which attract thousands of attendees in the mobile zone, according to the center’s website.
Jackson City Council President and Ward 7 Representative Virgi Lindsay said part of the city’s role is to help Green and the organization’s efforts as best they can, including providing funding. , fixing the lights on the courts and installing more lights in the park. The park is in the Lindsay neighborhood.
While plans for economic development in and around Battlefield Park are still in their infancy, with Green having an engineer and architect sketching out his vision, there is support from the US Tennis Association and other investors, Green said. .
The next step is to contact stakeholders to start the process. Green said she sees the development of a Battlefield Park hotel across the street so people can stay while attending tournaments.
BATTLEFIELD PARK, TENNIS IS PART OF THE SOLUTION TO KEEP CHILDREN SAFE
LaPeriall Jones, director of facilities at the Dorothy Vest Tennis Center, said that since the first meeting with city officials and community members in April 2021, discussions have been held with park and recreation officials about the ways to improve the park.
This includes removing the unused swimming pool and replacing it with a water feature for children to play in and removing the basketball courts.
Security cameras have been installed around the courts, Jones said, adding that the tennis community has a great relationship with Jackson police who regularly patrol the area and are responsive when called upon.
Jones’ own organization, Ace to Deuce Community Tennis Association, wants to get more kids and teens interested in tennis, as well as recruit more volunteers, coaches and donors to help with fundraising.
“What it does, it gives kids something to do,” Jones said. “They’re not sitting at home playing video games, they’re learning a skill, they’re getting to think, because you have to think and they’re not just sitting there planning what’s the next big adventure that we can. do with friends.”
Due to the pandemic, many community centers and recreation centers have had to close, leaving children with no place to relax. Advocates and city officials said many children become involved in crime when left on their own.
In 2021, at least nine teenagers were killed and at least six were involved in a shooting in Jackson. Five days into 2022, 14-year-old DeMarcus McGinnis was shot and killed while sitting in a car and three other teenagers were injured, police said.
Jones and Green hope to partner with Jackson State University to bring coaches and mentors to court to teach after-school programs filled with Jackson Public School students.
Jones said Ace to Deuce works with Jackson Public School kids, but he would like more involvement.
“Research supports that (tennis) encourages children to become individuals, critical thinkers and problem solvers,” Green said. “And if we can solve our problems other than with a gun, then they’re not committing a crime.”
Jones added that the goal is to create teams so children can compete with others and help develop life skills. In the fall, Ace to Deuce formed two teams for children under 18 and both competed in state championships, with the girls’ tennis team placing third and the boys’ tennis team placing third. ranking second.
“We need people like Ms. Green and her organizers to step up and be part of the positive energy for our kids,” Lindsay said. “We need more Venecca Greens.”