PYA Complex

Even though the federal ADA suit against the city has been dropped, the fate of the Palestine Athletic Complex is still undecided.

Michael Ivy's federal Americans with Disabilities Act against the city has been dismissed, without prejudice, by District Judge Jeremy Kernodle. The fate of Palestine's Athletic Complex – and the thousands of children who use it annually for organized sports – is still uncertain.

The suit was dismissed Dec. 23, which the Herald-Press learned Tuesday through an open-records request.

City council members discussed the case Monday in closed session – three weeks after it had been dismissed – but made no public announcement.

City Manager Leslie Cloer declined to comment, stating city officials would let a press release suffice until a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, in the Palestine High School Auditorium.

In the press release, city officials said they are still responsible for correcting the ADA violations in the complex, and it will remain closed until they devise a plan of action.

At the public meeting, residents, city council members, and city officials will discuss the ADA issues that have been identified, and what can be done about them.

The city closed the park in September after Ivy filed the suit. City officials then said the city could not afford to bring the complex into ADA compliance, and estimated the cost to be in the millions.

Closing the athletic complex left nearly 1,000 Anderson County kids, ages 3 to 15, without a place to play. Another 1,000 kids – in competing teams from outside Anderson County – also used the complex's athletic fields.

The Anderson County Football League who organized football teams for boys, ages 8-12, as well as cheerleaders for those teams was a patron of the facility. Another non-profit that utilized the complex, the Palestine Youth Athletic Association, sponsored baseball, softball, and Tee-ball games for boys and girls, ages 3-15 there.

Retired Judge Carey McKinney, president of the ACFL, which has used the complex for nearly 40 years, said regardless if the city re-opens the complex, he might not return.

“I'm not so negative that I'm not willing to talk with someone,” McKinney told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “But, all of this that's happened has taken all the fun out of it.”

McKinney said he and PYAA representatives are negotiating with other leagues, trying to start something new.

“The best thing that could be happen would be someone would build another facility, and take the city out of it,” he said. “Funds could be raised, and we'd get enough volunteers to work together in the interest of the kids, and leave politics out of it.”

McKinney said the most valuable lesson area kids learned about how the athletic complex issue was handled was what not to do.

“Personally, I don't see that they'll re-open it,” he said.

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