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Rec department sees paritcipation upswing

Brookhaven Recreation Department officials say they have seen”tremendous” growth in participation across the sports andactivities spectrum in 2004.

Terry Reid, department director, said participation in programactivities has increased 36 percent from 2003 to 2004. Last year,2,062 people took part in department events while that number wasup to 2,812 this year.

“Everything’s growing, and it’s working great,” Reid said.

Reid mentioned increases in several areas.

“Flag football is the thing that has really grown,” he said.

Last year, according to department totals, there were fewer than100 youth and men’s team members. This year, the total is 200,enough for eight men’s teams and 10 youth teams for play thatstarts today.

“It’s fun, and the kids have a good time,” Reid said.

Reid credited the recent Olympics with an increase in localgymnastics interest. Participation in those activities increasedfrom 125 last year to 151 this year.

“Anytime it’s on TV, you have people who want to be gymnasts,”Reid said.

Ballet class participation has almost doubled, said TaylorKillian, who instructs participants ages 3-18. Last year, therewere 28 members in Killian’s classes while this year’s classes have52 members.

Brookhaven ballet participants are working with the MississippiBallet to bring an act from “The Nutcracker” to Brookhaven. Theevent is scheduled for Dec. 4.

“I’m excited,” Killian said about the play.

Ballet and gymnastics are among programs offered at the oldNational Guard armory. The department moved into its new home a fewyears ago.

Reid said facilities, like more space at the armory and the A.L.Lott Complex, have allowed the department to offer more services tocitizens.

“We have a place to do things we didn’t have before,” Reidsaid.

While most department programs require a fee for participation,Reid said he has tried to hold a free event at least once aquarter. This year’s events have included an Easter Egg Hunt, afree tennis workshop and the Hershey Track and Field competition,which was unfortunately rained out after about 70 people had signedup.

The next free event is a punt, pass and kick competition. Theevent, scheduled for Saturday Sept. 25 at 10 a.m. at King Field, isopen to boys and girls under age 15.

Reid said winners from various age groups will go to Jackson toparticipate at the state level. Winners there will go to NewOrleans for a regional competition.

“Kids from here have gone all the way to New Orleans,” saidReid, mentioning current Brookhaven High School quarterback JimmyJohns, who participated in the competition a few years ago.

In addition to programs, recreation department officials arealso overseeing the Multi-Use Facility and the Kids’ Kingdomplayground.

Reid said the Multi-Use Facility on Belt Line Road has beenrented 191 times this year.

“That’s almost one every other day,” Reid said.

Also, the Kids’ Kingdom on Industrial Park Road remains apopular place.

It is also slated for improvements with the Friends of the Parkpreparing to build a restroom at the park, which is in a floodplain and has flooded several times during heavy rains. Reid saidofficials had determined a high water level and the restroom willbe built on a mound.

“It’ll be a raised restroom on a slope,” Reid said.