By Robert Tomlinson
The Meadows at Coolidge Place, just north of Three Rivers, Mich., in Lockport Township, is a small senior citizen community just outside of the city’s limits, with the average age of its residents in the mid-70s.
When driving around the area, the traffic from nearby Main Street can barely be heard. Instead, the drizzle of rain, the chirping of birds, or the deer running around in the nearby field can be heard quite clearly.
That nearby field, which is immediately south of the community, has been the center of a heated debate over the location of a proposed sports complex, and it has led to a rift between city leaders, citizens and the neighboring township for the past four years.
The big question surrounding the sports complex, and the one that has gotten most legal attention, is its location.
Brenda Fleckenstein, 58, and the youngest of the residents of The Meadows, moved to the area last year.
“People were telling me I was crazy to live here,” she said. “I thought the sports complex was a great idea, until I saw how it was going to affect the residents here.”
Fleckenstein said that for the most part, citizens of the community are for the “major thought” of the sports complex, which according to the Master Plan from the River Country Recreation Authority, would include areas for baseball, football, basketball, and many other sports. However, they are against the location of it. Fleckenstein, along with the other residents, live within a football field’s distance away from where the complex would be situated.
In 2016, the Three Rivers City Commission voted to annex the land from Lockport Township for use in building the sports complex. The plan has now been halted by a court stay in district court, and Lockport Township has filed a brief to the Michigan Supreme Court in support of the Township’s position against the annexation, according to the Three Rivers Commercial-News.
Lockport Township Board members have not returned requests for comment.
Three Rivers City Commissioner Daryl Griffith liked the idea of the sports complex from the get-go.
“I thought it was an incredibly cool idea, and this was prior to a meeting we had at the Community Center with all the community asking them where the city should be going in the next ten years,” Griffith said. “There was a group floating the idea, both for the youth community and the growth potential it had. During one of the meetings, we had a list of potential things we could do for growth in Three Rivers, and that was one of them.”
The growth potential was echoed by local realtor Crystal Heivilin, who also supports the project.
“I think it brings in a lot of business opportunity,” Heivilin said. “I spend hours in-between games for my kids now in other towns, and while we wait, we shop, we get gas, we get something to eat, we explore the area to see what that area offers. So, I think it could help our area grow.”
However, Fleckenstein says there isn’t much in place in the city for growth in the first place.
“We aren’t Portage or Kalamazoo. There needs to be a focus on building downtown first, to draw the people who want to come,” Fleckenstein said. “Why are they so determined to put it there, instead of considering all the revenue and taxes and everything they could get from putting homes out here?”
Three Rivers City Commissioner Daryl Griffith hasn’t seen much interest in a large residential development for the city. “There’s been a few houses here and there being built, but no one’s beating down the doors to build a major subdivision.”