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WM A&P, city leaders cry ‘foul’ over Southland Classic shenanigans

WM A&P, city leaders cry ‘foul’ over Southland Classic shenanigans


WM A&P, city leaders cry ‘foul’ over Southland Classic shenanigans

Parks Commissioner: ‘ Why would our A& P allot $ 5,000 for a tournament hosted in Marion?’

The fourth annual Southland Softball Classic tournament went off as scheduled on the first weekend in June. But it did not go off where backers thought it would be scheduled. Last October, the West Memphis Advertising & Promotion Commission pledged reimbursements up to $5,000 to Clint Albright for promoting city hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions to tournament teams and their travelling fans.

Reports of a successful Friday night banquet, with more than 100 tournament players in attendance at Southland Gaming and Racing, delighted the West Memphis A& P. But, the rest of the news reflected poorly on event promoters Clint and Marla Albright.

Tourism Director Jim Jackson presented more than $4,700 in bills to the A& P for reimbursement.

The A& P balked at the reimbursement, wanting to see samples of the actual promotion work the couple A&P

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had actually completed.

City Councilwoman Ramona Taylor culled through the invoice and wanted to see proof of publication for the advertising.

“We’d like to see what his wife provided as far as recommending accommodations,” Said Taylor. “Where did she tell people to stay?” Jackson agreed to ask for more details and a revised invoice as a result of the conversation.

Members of the A& P were also miffed when they heard the promise to play the majority of the tournament in West Memphis failed to pan out. Commissioners wondered why the vast majority of play happened at the Marion Sports Complex, when it was the West Memphis A& P that had provided the tournament seed money.

Clint Albright announced plans in the October 2015 A& P meeting to expand the tournament to 60 teams and indicated a few preliminary games would have to be played in Marion on Saturday, but that Sunday’s championship rounds would be at the Marion Rose Softball Complex.

Albright also asked for improvements to the West Memphis park. Parks Director Lorenzo Parker promised the improvements to keep the tournament in West Memphis. Under the eye of Mayor Bill Johnson, and with the approval of both the Parks Commission and the Budget Committee, Parker reapportioned $40,000 in the parks budget to laser level playing fields and make some other improvements around the city park in order to retain the tournament.

In late May, regular city league play at Tilden Rodgers was suspended for a week to get the work done before the tournament started. With the ground work complete and the pledge for financial backing made, Commissioners were agog hearing the tournament had shifted to the Marion Sports Complex for most of the Saturday games and all of the Sunday Tournament.

“I think we need to look at whether he met his commitment to us,” said Taylor. “We laid $17,000 worth of concrete in one lick to accommodate

the tournament,” said Johnson last

October. “I question the use of West Memphis money for a tournament played in Marion.”

Johnson’s fears became an apparent reality with the 2016 classic. After standing the Parks Department budget on its head to provide $57,000 worth of facility improvements at Tilden Rodgers for Albright tournaments in recent years, the city was almost completely shut out in 2016. The tournament fielded just 41 of the 60 teams planned, yet the vast majority of the games moved away to Marion anyway.

Mayor Johnson questioned Albrights’ commitment.

“I think you need look at the fact that they didn’t play here Sunday, after they told us to have everything ready and we had crews available,” said Johnson.

“That costs a considerable amount of money.”

The city billed Albright $750 for the fields according to Jackson. The only revenue planned on by the parks commission was for a portion of concession sales.

In an separate interview, Parks Commission Chairman Darin McCollum felt Albright played dirty and doesn’t want the promoter back. The chairman indicated Parks and Recreation was told to plan on the tournament Sunday.

Ground crews reported at 7 a.m. and readied the fields.

A private concessionaire was left out in the cold, too, stocking up for the Sunday tournament, but no teams showed up for the finale.

City workers claimed finals play shifted to Marion without notice.

“Our A& P supported the promoters who asked for costly improvements and promised to play here,” said McCollum. “Their first few overflow games were supposed to be in Marion on Saturday. Why would our A& P allot $5,000 for a tournament hosted in Marion? I would recommend the A& P stay away from that next year because it cost the city.”

By John Rech

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