Bryan Hanks: My suggestions for renaming the Woodmen Community Center
It’s no longer called the “Woodmen Community Center” — the public-private facility on Vernon Avenue that includes the Lions Water Adventure Park, two basketball courts, workout area and meeting rooms.
As of last week, the temporary moniker for the facility is the “Kinston Community Center,” a nice-enough, place-holding name until a better one is recommended by the Kinston-Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Commission and approved by the Kinston City Council.
(Speaking of Kinston City Council, that’s an entity that shares the acronym KCC with Kinston Community Center. Another is the Kinston Country Club. Sorry, just an aside; guess I'm channeling Jon Dawson.)
As a proud former two-term member of the Parks and Rec Commission — I have the plaque to prove it! — I know it’s going to be a fun meeting this Thursday when new names are bandied about.
In my opinion, the center needs to have someone’s name — not just Kinston Community Center, the Kinston-Lenoir County Community Center or even the Neuse Community Center (which actually isn’t bad). When you put someone’s name on a building or facility, it adds a certain gravitas that doesn’t come with a geographic moniker.
Below are some humble ideas, with these criteria — I wanted to suggest names of relatively recent contributors to our community (and the center), so that’s why I’m not including historical names.
Here you go:
· THE BILL ELLIS CENTER: Although I know he won’t like this idea (Bill is one of the humblest gentlemen I’ve ever known), I’m honestly not sure I know another person who is more worthy of the honor. Bill’s contributions to Kinston and Lenoir County recreation are too innumerable to mention, but I’ll highlight the best, including the center itself, the planetarium, the Neuse Nature Center and the greenway. He is also – along with City Manager Tony Sears and others – arguably the principal catalyst in professional baseball returning to Kinston
· THE STEPHEN HILL CENTER: We all know Hill has done more for downtown Kinston than any individual in the 21st century. However, his influence isn’t confined to his Mother Earth entities and his focused dedication to Kinston’s growing arts community — he was also an important part of the center being built. With everything he’s done to bring Kinston back from the abyss, this would be an incredible gesture of appreciation to a modern-day hero
· THE GEORGE WHITFIELD CENTER: Coach Whitfield, who is already in nearly a dozen halls of fame across the country — including the Kinston-Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame — is one of the strongest advocates for Kinston in the entire state of North Carolina. He has done more behind-the-scenes work for the KLCSHOF and other Kinston entities than most realize
· THE RONNIE BATTLE CENTER: Coach Battle, who passed away last year, was the longtime head baseball coach at Kinston High School and member of the Parks and Rec Commission that helped build the center. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word who was a quiet and respected leader throughout the community
· THE DANNY RICE CENTER: I’m pretty sure there would not even be a center if not for Rice’s heart and drive for this project. Rice was one of the primary catalysts in its formation and was the conduit between Lenoir County and the Woodmen of the World
· THE JERRY STACKHOUSE CENTER: Arguably Kinston’s most recognizable name, regardless of avocation, Stackhouse has done more for this city and community behind the scenes than many will ever realize. Putting his name on the center could also help it become more of a tourist destination, too
· THE B.J. MURPHY CENTER: Yeah, yeah, I know he’s the owner and publisher of the site you’re visiting right now, but — like Ellis, Sears, Battle and Rice — he was integral to the creation of the center. Murphy also advocated for Kinston throughout the region and state more than any other mayor in recent memory
Other names the commission might consider that immediately come to mind include Sears, Thurman Pate, Felicia Solomon, Felix Harvey, Joe Tyson, Sue Ellen Maddux, Joel Smith, Robbie Swinson, Quinton Coples and Buddy Ritch.
So, who would you vote for? Who did I forget? Let me know in the comments.