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Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2002

TSU, City of Troy come together to honor Mayor Jimmy Lunsford at tennis complex dedication


Sports Editor

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This is getting to become a habit.

But a good habit.

On Wednesday, Troy State University, along with the City of Troy and Troy City Schools, held an official dedication for the city’s sparkling new Jimmy C. Lunsford Municipal Tennis Complex on Elm Street.

For the university, this was the third such gala within a three month period. Troy State recently christened the Lady Trojans’ Softball Complex, which shares the same parking lot as the tennis facility, and re-dedicated Pace-Riddle Baseball Field last Friday following an expansive season-long overhaul to the stadium’s grandstand.

The next big project on Athletic Director Johnny Williams’ list will probably be the largest yet. Following the completion of the 2002 football season, Memorial Stadium will be expanded at a total estimated cost of $12 million. The seating capacity will increase from 17,500 to 30,000, with luxury sky boxes added to the west side.

"We’re hoping to get started this summer and go to bid in June or July. We hope to have it completed by the opening of the 2003 season," said Williams. "We’ll tear down the old press box and build a brand new one that will stretch from 10 (yard-line) to 10 (yard-line). That will house the 27 sky boxes."

Lunsford, himself, was the guest of honor on Wednesday, collecting several proclamations, an artist’s portrait and a commemorative plaque, all of which will be housed in the complex’s pro shop to serve as honorary reminders of Troy’s foremost citizen.

"By the word ‘leader’ in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Jimmy Lunsford," said Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, addressing the sizable crowd in attendance.

"It’s a great, great honor," said Lunsford. " But I resisted them doing this at first."

TSU Chancellor Jack Hawkins mentioned the idea to Lunsford almost a year ago. Even though the veteran mayor was against the tennis complex bearing his name, Hawkins brought the matter before Troy State’s Board of Trustees.

"We took it from there to get support from the school system and of course there was discussions with members of the city council, where it was unanimously supported," said Hawkins.

Hawkins thought this would be a good way to say "thank you," not only to Lunsford for his past support to the university, but to the City of Troy also.

"This is the best town-university relationship in America," said Hawkins. "It really is. In a lot of communities there’s a lot of in-fighting, but not here. People work together and we’ve just really been able to enjoy that two-way partnership."

Williams said the cooperation between Troy State University, the city’s school system and Troy,

itself, goes "way back."

"I don’t know the exact date," he said. "Over the years this has just evolved into a tremendous situation for all three parties."

According to Williams, it’s the vision of people like Lunsford which has helped all three separate entities prosper together.

And that includes Troy State athletics.

"Believe it or not, he views athletics in a little different light other then funding education," said Williams. "We are really a window to the rest of this country and I know that’s why the city helped us so much with the football and basketball expansions that we did. We can help bring a lot of exposure to Troy and Mayor Lunsford has always noticed that. We help bring track meets, basketball tournaments and now, hopefully, we’ll be able to bring some tennis tournaments to town. Those are all economic benefits to Troy and bring more money to our community."

Lunsford was humble on Wednesday, but said he was pleased the Lunsford name was permanently affixed to something for coming generations to bear witness to.

The mayor also showed off his new grandson, Jackson Grady Lunsford, at the ceremony.

"He’ll be around to carry it on too,"

the proud grandfather said.